St. Louis County Issues State Of Emergency After Shooting During Protests

By NPR Staff NPR

Updated 5 p.m. ET

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has issued a state of emergency following a shooting on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo. In part, the move gives St. Louis County authority over police emergency management in Ferguson and surrounding areas.

Also Monday afternoon, activist and professor Cornel West was among protesters arrested at a sit-in at the St. Louis County Federal Courthouse.

Gunfire erupted Sunday night as events marking Brown’s shooting death were winding down; a man who police say exchanged fire with them ended up in the hospital. Police say the man was not part of the weekend’s rallies, which have been peaceful. Brown, an 18-year-old black Ferguson resident, was unarmed when he was shot and killed last year by (now former) police officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

Sunday’s shooting, in which dozens of rounds were reportedly fired, began near the intersection of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant Avenue, the epicenter of last summer’s standoffs between protesters and police.

Police say the initial gunfire seemed to have been between two groups, with as many as six people firing. Photos from the scene show two unmarked police cars with bullet holes.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said in a news conference that plainclothes officers pursued one of the suspects, who then fired upon them. Other officers were on the street, wearing riot gear.

The plainclothes officers returned fire, striking the suspect, Belmar said.

Belmar said the suspect is in surgery in “critical … unstable condition.”

The four officers have been placed on administrative leave.

The shooting began around 11:10 p.m. local time, says St. Louis Public Radio. The station reports, “Protesters and police both ran toward Ferguson Avenue, away from West Florissant, after the shots rang out, leaving the streets mostly clear by 11:30.”

Demonstrator Roberta Lynch, who held a cane as she ran from the shooting, told St. Louis Public Radio, “We need to stop, too much has been going on, too many people getting murdered already. This is senseless.”

Belmar described the individuals involved in the incident as “criminals” and distinguished them from protesters who are calling for positive changes in the community.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighed in on the violence; she began her speech at a Fraternal Order of Police conference in Pittsburgh on Monday morning by saying:

“I strongly condemn the violence against the community, including police officers, in Ferguson. As we have seen over the recent months and years, not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest, it places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm’s way.

“The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing. But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”

St. Louis Public Radio reports that another shooting — a drive-by attack — took place at a nearby apartment building several hours after the violence at West Florissant Avenue. That shooting left two young men injured.

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