(CNN) — Two police officers were shot in Ferguson early Thursday morning, just hours after the city’s police chief resigned.
“These police officers were standing there, and they were shot just because they were police officers,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.
But neither of those struck was from the Ferguson Police Department. One, a 14-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department, was shot in the shoulder. The other, a 7-year veteran of the Webster Groves Police Department, was struck in the face, Belmar said.
The officers were in serious condition Thursday morning. It’s not clear who the shooter was.
Police from an array of jurisdictions in Missouri were in Ferguson keeping an eye on the protestors at the time.
Several protesters said the shooter was not near the crowd of demonstrators, but was up on a grassy hill.
The gunman was “no less than 100 feet” away, protester Kayla Reed said.
Belmar said police have been fortunate that such a shooting hasn’t happened until now.
“But I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems,” the county police chief said. “That’s not an indictment on everybody that’s out there, certainly expressing their First Amendment rights. But we have seen, in law enforcement, that this is a very, very, very dangerous environment for the officers to work in.”
From calm to chaos
Some demonstrators gathered Wednesday night at the Ferguson Police Department to cheer the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Others amassed there to demand more: the disbanding of the entire police department and the resignation of Mayor James Knowles, protester DeRay McKesson told CNN.
“Racist cops have got to go,” some chanted.
By midnight the crowd had thinned out, ready to call it a night, when gunfire erupted.
“All of a sudden, I heard at least four or five shots ring out,” witness Markus Loehrer said.
“It took me at least 30 seconds of watching before I realized there was an officer down. We are not there to shoot cops; we don’t like violence. So we did what anybody would do — we ran away.”
Organizers say protests have continued for more than 200 days — ever since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
But the protest Wednesday night appeared to be the largest since November, when a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for Brown’s death. The latest protest suggests anger in Ferguson is far from over, even after the police chief’s departure.
“We aren’t satisfied with this,” Reed said of Jackson’s resignation. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not what total justice looks like in Ferguson.”
Total justice, she said, would include the departure of the mayor. McKesson said justice would also include criminal charges against Wilson — which a grand jury has already to decided against.
The U.S. Justice Department also didn’t find grounds to prosecute the officer, who resigned in November.
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety” when he shot Brown, the Justice Department said.
Jackson’s resignation is the latest fallout from a damning Justice Department report that cited widespread and systemic discrimination against blacks by the Ferguson police and court system.
City Manager John Shaw also resigned after the report, as did two police officers. And the city’s top court clerk was fired for sending racist emails.
The police chief’s resignation will go into effect March 19, Jackson said, to “provide for an orderly transition of command.”
Protesters had wanted Jackson gone since shortly after Brown’s death.
After his resignation Wednesday, Jackson said he was encouraged by the report’s conclusion, which said Ferguson “has the capacity to reform its approach to law enforcement.”
“We agree that Ferguson can do the tough work to see this through and emerge the best small town it can be,” he said.
Exactly how Ferguson can emerge united remains unclear.