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Ferguson shooting: Suspect charged

16 March 2015, 08:21

Ferguson - A 20-year-old man was charged on Sunday with first-degree assault for last week's shooting of two police officers during a protest in the troubled city Ferguson, Missouri, a crime that fuelled a national debate on race and policing.

The suspect, Jeffrey Williams, has admitted to firing the shots and was from the general St Louis area, St Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch, told a news conference.

"It was not certain if he had been targeting police," he added.

The St Louis suburb has been racked with protests since a white police officer killed unarmed black resident Michael Brown, 18, last summer. The slaying sparked demonstrations around the country and led to a US justice department probe.

Williams, an African American who had been on probation for possession of stolen property, was arrested after a massive manhunt. Tips from the public and video evidence helped in the investigation, McCulloch said.

"He has acknowledged his participation in firing the shots," McCulloch said, adding Williams had been at protests in the city.

The suspect, whose bond was set at $300 000, appears to have used a .40 calibre handgun and was firing from a car, McCulloch said, adding it is possible that he was shooting at someone else.

Also read: Two police officers shot in Ferguson

A handgun was recovered in his residence and matched shell casings found at the scene, according to McCulloch, who said although Williams appears to be the only shooter, other people may be charged as the investigation continues.

In the Thursday shooting, a 41-year-old county police officer suffered a shoulder wound and a 32-year-old colleague from a nearby police department sustained a facial wound that left a bullet lodged near his ear. Both were treated and released by a local hospital.

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the attack.

The shootings took place just hours after Ferguson's police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing US justice department report finding his force was rife with racial bias.

Chief Tom Jackson's resignation followed the departures of the city manager, a municipal judge and two police officers.

The report said the St Louis suburb overwhelmingly arrested and issued traffic citations to African Americans to boost city coffers through fines, used police as a collection agency and created a culture of distrust that exploded in August when Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

- Reuters


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