The fragile peace between police and protesters in Ferguson is being tested after two officer-involved shootings Saturday. The shootings were apparently unrelated to continuing protests in the St. Louis suburb.
A Ferguson police officer was shot in the arm at about 9:10 p.m. during a routine patrol of the community center, according to authorities, who are still searching for suspects in the incident. Three hours later, an off-duty St. Louis County police officer was shot at while driving his personal vehicle on Interstate 70. It is unclear if that officer was targeted or if the incident was random.
Both incidents are under investigation.
Alexis Templeton, 20, who has been protesting in Ferguson since the shooting, said Saturday will likely escalate the situation between demonstrators and police.
“People pay attention now, so when something happens, 50 or 60 (protesters) show up,” said Templeton, who has been arrested twice while protesting. “It’s getting more tense. I feel like after last night, the police presence is going to be ten times heavier. They’re on edge now. They’re starting to get hurt. It’s not just rocks and bottles. That’s why I feel like they’re about to try and start locking things down. I think it’s coming today.”
The national spotlight has been focused on Ferguson in the weeks since 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in the St. Louis suburb by police officer Darren Wilson. In the days that immediately followed the shooting, violent clashes between heavily armed police and marchers in support of Brown grabbed headlines and images of tear gassing, flash grenades and smoke bombs were broadcast around the world.
The protests have continued despite the absence of national and international media, and have spilled over into city and county council meetings. The conversation on social media around Brown’s case and related issues including policing and civic engagement has also remained strong, and several activists on the ground post regular updates online about the ongoing situation and their efforts in Ferguson.
While things have largely remained calm in Ferguson, signs of frustration and anger are apparent. Earlier last week, a roadside memorial near the site where Brown was killed was burned — sparking tempers among those who suspected arson. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
And social media was also set ablaze this week after local and state police in Missouri were seen wearing “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty and in uniform. The Justice Department, which is conducting a civil investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, banned the bracelets on Friday.
Also, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson issued a video apology to Brown’s parents.
Saturday’s shootings were another reminder of the explosive environment that remains in Ferguson. St. Louis County Alderman Antonio French, who has been involved in protests and activism efforts in Ferguson, tweeted Sunday: “Our days need to be spent trying to build some basic level of communication before nighttime confrontations. Before someone else gets hurt.”
French also called for peace and prayers for the injured Ferguson officer.