Man charged in Ferguson police shooting says he was targeting someone else

St. Louis County officials have arrested and charged a 20-year-old St. Louis-area man in connection with last week’s shooting in which gunfire injured two police officers who were standing guard outside the Ferguson Police station. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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The incident occurred Wednesday at the tail end of a rally protesting severance packages for officials who resigned in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into racially biased law enforcement practices in Ferguson, Missouri.

St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch says police arrested Jeffrey Williams and that he has acknowledged firing the shots that hit the officers.

However, McCulloch says Williams claims his motivation was an earlier dispute and that the officers were not his intended target. According to McCulloch, at the time of the incident there were civilians located between Williams and the officers.

“But I do want to point out specifically, he is charged with assaulting these two police officers its still, regardless of who may be an intended target, you hit somebody that’s still an assault in the first degree, still a Class A felony, still punishable by life in prison. That’s on each one of the counts pending against him.”

Officials also charged Williams with one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. Prosecutor McCulloch identified Williams, an African American, as a demonstrator in the protests that began in Ferguson in August after a former police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown. Wilson was ultimately not charged in the killing. But local organizers say that Williams was not a regular participant in the ongoing protest movement in Ferguson, and the evening’s rally had all but ended at the time of the gunfire.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said members of the public provided information that was central to identifying and locating Mr. Williams.

“We cannot do this by ourselves. We have to have the ability to engage the public two ways, to where we can work together or we cant make it happen. That happened in this case, and I am certainly buoyed by that.”

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Belmar claimed the shooter was – quote – “embedded” in a group of protesters. Official information now seems to support multiple eyewitness testimonies that the shots came from far behind the protest line.

The two officers are recovering at home. Williams remains in custody, held on a $300,000 bail and the investigation is ongoing.

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