Two police officers wounded amid continuing tension in Ferguson

An officer with a rifle guards a road after a Ferguson, Mo., police officer was shot in the arm. (David Carson / St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

By MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE, MATT PEARCE contact the reporters

Shootings in Ferguson, Mo., are leave 2 police officers wounded among continuing unrest

Ferguson still at a low boil as police investigate shootings that wounded 2 officers

There were no demonstrators outside the Ferguson Police Department or on the city's main business center Sunday afternoon, yet the wounding overnight of two police officers in apparently unrelated incidents left the troubled Missouri city far from at ease.

Tensions flared in the St. Louis suburb over the weekend after officials said a Ferguson police officer was shot in the arm Saturday while chasing a suspect outside the city's community center.

In a separate shooting incident shortly after midnight early Sunday morning, an off-duty St. Louis city officer was hurt by breaking glass after the occupants of another vehicle shot his car multiple times as he was driving on the freeway, officials said. That officer was treated and released.

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There were no early indications that either incident was connected to the demonstrations happening in Ferguson over the Aug. 9 police shooting of a black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, but both officers' injuries came after a week of confrontations between demonstrators and police.

The unidentified Ferguson officer was conducting a "business check" at the Ferguson Community Center when he spotted a male suspect at the building who began running away when he saw the officer, according to a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the incident.

"During the foot pursuit, the subject spun toward the officer armed with a handgun, and fired shots at the officer," St. Louis County police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schellman said in a statement.

One shot hit the officer in the arm, and the officer returned fire but did not appear to hit the suspect, who escaped into the woods behind the community center, Schellman said.

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The officer was treated at a hospital for the injury, which was described as not life-threatening. Schellman told the Los Angeles Times he did not have information Sunday on the officer's condition.

Schellman said the Ferguson police officer's body camera was not activated during the incident. Officials initially said that there were two suspects involved in that incident, but Schellman told The Times on Sunday that "our detectives have since determined that there was only one suspect," attributing the discrepancy to a "fluid" situation.

Some Ferguson demonstrators were initially incensed Saturday night after hearing a rumor that police had killed a citizen, and Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who oversaw police during last month's protests, told a gathering crowd to disperse after bringing news of the officer's shooting.

The off-duty St. Louis city officer, who was wearing his uniform pants but not his uniform shirt, was shot at a couple hours later while driving a personal car on Interstate 70 less than a mile from Ferguson city limits, according to St. Louis County police.

Investigators weren't sure whether the officer, who didn't return fire, was specifically targeted or whether the shooting was a random act of violence.

"The officer was traveling in the right lane when a vehicle began passing him on his left," Schellman said in a statement. "An unknown number of occupants in that vehicle were armed with handguns and began firing multiple shots at the off-duty officer’s vehicle."

On Sunday afternoon, the community center was locked and quiet, and the sports fields near where the assailant fled were abandoned, with no lingering sign of the shooting except a television truck parked out front.

The area's residents have been waiting to see what happens when a St. Louis County grand jury makes its decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Brown.

Samantha Warren, 19, had rushed home from dinner Saturday when she heard there had been a shooting, fearing the worst – her 17 year-old brother was home alone. She found the street blocked by police, their helicopters circling, and had to walk around to find her brother, who was safe inside.

They were soon joined by an elderly neighbor who was shaken, recounting how she had been on her sun porch when she heard several gunshots and saw police racing over.

Warren, a college student home for the weekend, said she was sad about what took place in the neighborhood, a racially mixed area where just a few weeks ago residents held a barbecue. She said police have been doing a better job of community policing.

“They’re just trying to keep the peace,” said Warren, a sophomore studying graphic design at the University of Missouri in Columbia. But that’s not enough to calm tensions, she said.

“I would like to see Darren Wilson come to some sort of justice -- he needs to be punished,” Warren said outside the community center Sunday morning. “I don’t think it will stop until they come to some decision on Darren Wilson.”

Protests have continued nightly, she said -- smaller, but burning with a mounting frustration.

“They want to see that justice and they’re getting more and more worked up about it,” she said.

Others said simmering resentment over Brown's shooting has led to venting at police.

“People are just angry and want somebody to take it out on,” said Warren’s friend Cameron Webster, 19, who works at a restaurant.

After church in Ferguson on Sunday, Shirley Turner, 53, stopped to check on her daughter who lives around the corner from the community center.

Turner, who is black, has a son who is a local police officer, and he has told her of the backlash. “What happened with this one particular cop, they’re all suffering for it,” said Turner, adding, “Not all of them are bad -- there’s some good ones out here.”

Turner, who works in maintenance at a nearby Marriott hotel, said coworkers have tried to discuss the issue, but their disagreements always seem to turn political and she has given up.

Many say they believe Wilson will never face charges. Turner said she has faith in the system, but fears what those already upset with the police might do if Wilson isn’t charged.

“We just have to live day by day, trust in God and pray they don’t tear up the city,” she said. “It’s coming to the last days.”