Attacks on police threaten progress in Ferguson, says Holder

Two police officers were shot and wounded outside the Ferguson Police Department overnight as peaceful protests were winding down. The St. Louis County police chief called the attack an ambush and Attorney General Eric Holder said it was an attempt to sow discord in a community that has been rocked by conflict. Judy Woodruff reports on efforts to find the shooter.

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    Now to last night's violence in Ferguson, Missouri, where two police officers were shot outside a protest.

    This shaky amateur video captured the moment that the gunfire erupted, shortly after midnight. An otherwise peaceful demonstration had been winding down, outside the Ferguson Police Department.


    We heard, the crowd, what sounded like a firecracker. And so we looked up to the top of the hill, and we saw two or three more actual gunshot — flares from the muzzle of a gun firing towards the officers.


    Police said those flashes likely came from a handgun some 125 yards away. There were three or four shots, and two struck home.

  • Saint Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar:

  • JON BELMAR, Chief, St. Louis County Police Department:

    This is really an ambush, is what it is. You can't see it coming. You don't understand that it's going to happen, and you're basically defenseless from the fact that it is happening to you at the time.


    One of the wounded officers was shot in the face. The bullet lodged behind his ear. The other was hit in the shoulder by a bullet that just missed his spine.


    We could have buried two police officers next week over this.


    Instead, officials said neither man suffered permanent injury, and both were released from a hospital late this morning. The shootings came just hours after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned. He'd been under pressure since the August shooting death of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, who's since left the force.

    Then, last week, the U.S. Justice Department accused Ferguson's police and courts of rampant racism, prompting Chief Jackson and five others to quit or be fired.

    In Washington today, however, Attorney General Eric Holder warned last night's shootings threaten any attempt to move forward.

  • ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General:

    This wasn't someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk who was trying to sow discord in an area that is trying to get its act together and trying to bring together a community that has been fractured for too long.

    This really disgusting and cowardly attack might have been intended to unravel any sense of progress that exists, but I hope that that doesn't in fact happen.


    President Obama tweeted his own reaction as he left for a trip to Los Angeles, saying: "Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in Missouri. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together."

    For now, the focus in Ferguson is on finding the shooter. Officers searched a house today and took several people in for questioning.

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