After months of speculation and pressure, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced his resignation on Wednesday. Even though protesters had called for him to step down months ago, Jackson's announcement sparked a fresh demonstration in Ferguson, and two Ferguson police officers were shot by an unknown assailant outside the Police Department headquarters while overseeing the protest rally.
Tensions in Ferguson were reignited Wednesday afternoon when Jackson stepped down in response to the Department of Justice's damning report on the police department's routine discrimination against African-Americans. For many in the community, the decision was long overdue and one step of many that the city should have started taking months ago.
Though three high-profile figures have resigned in the last three days — Jackson's resignation came after Municipal Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer and City Manager John Shaw stepped down earlier this week — some of the protesters gathered on Wednesday night to pressure Mayor James Knowles III to do the same.
While most demonstrators were there to celebrate Jackson's resignation, the ones who called for more action renewed the outrage by chanting, "Racist cops have got to go!" and holding up signs that read, "Knowles, you are next!"
Over the course of the relatively modest protest rally, the tension between protesters and officers escalated quickly. Here's the complete timeline based on what we know so far.
- Wednesday afternoon: Police Chief Jackson announces his resignation, writing in his resignation letter, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri."
- Wednesday night: The protest started out peacefully, with demonstrators toasting Jackson's resignation. Despite the celebratory mood, there were still about two dozen cops in riot gear at the scene who arrested at least two people over the course of the night.
- Early Thursday, just after midnight: The protest took a dramatic turn when shots were fired, hitting two police officers who were standing in a line near the protesters. One officer was hit in the face; the other was shot in the shoulder. According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, the shots came from a group of people who were standing across the street from the rally. Some reported the shots came from no less than 100 feet away from the protesters, while others said they came from at least 500 feet away and therefore could not have come from the demonstrators.
- Early Thursday, after the shots were fired: The scene turned into chaos; demonstrators fled, screaming. Some officers tended to the two injured cops while others took cover and drew their weapons.
- Thursday morning: The two officers shot — a 32-year-old from the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves and a 41-year-old with the St. Louis County force — were in serious condition, but their injuries were not life-threatening, according to officials. Belmar gave a press conference, where he said that the two officers were lucky to be alive. As for any suspects, Belmar said, "I don't know who did the shooting, to be honest with you." But one thing he is sure of? "This is really an ambush, is what it is."