Man, 20, charged with shooting St. Louis-area officers - KCTV5

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Man, 20, charged with shooting St. Louis-area officers

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Police shine a light on a helmet as they investigate the scene where two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Police shine a light on a helmet as they investigate the scene where two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
St. Louis County Prosectuor Robert McCulloch said 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault among other things. St. Louis County Prosectuor Robert McCulloch said 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault among other things.
  • NEW DETAILSMan, 20, charged with shooting St. Louis-area officersMore>>

  • Two officers shot in 'ambush' outside Ferguson PD

    Two officers shot in 'ambush' outside Ferguson PD

    Thursday, March 12 2015 12:53 PM EDT2015-03-12 16:53:07 GMT
    St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the two officers shot during a protest in Ferguson aren't expected to have long-term injuries. The officers apparently were targeted.

    More >
    St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the two officers shot during a protest in Ferguson aren't expected to have long-term injuries. The officers apparently were targeted.

    More >
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -

A 20-year-old man charged Sunday with shooting two police officers watching over a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department attended a protest there earlier that night but told investigators he wasn't targeting the officers, officials said.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Jeffrey Williams told authorities he was firing at someone with whom he was in a dispute, not at the police officers.

"We're not sure we completely buy that part of it," McCulloch said, adding that there might have been other people in the vehicle with Williams.

Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. McCulloch said the investigation is ongoing.

Tensions between police and the black community have been high in Ferguson since the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by now-former police officer Darren Wilson, who is white. Wilson was cleared by the Justice Department's report and a grand jury led by McCulloch declined to indict Wilson in November. But the incident and other cases in which police killed unarmed black men spurred a nationwide discussion about police relations with minority communities.

The two officers were shot early Thursday as a crowd began to break up after a late-night demonstration that unfolded after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned in the wake of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report.

"He was out there earlier that evening as part of the demonstration," McCulloch said of Williams.

The federal report found widespread racial bias in the city's policing and in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from mostly black and low-income residents. Six Ferguson officials, including Jackson, have resigned or been fired since the federal report was released March 4.

On Thursday, a 41-year-old St. Louis County officer was shot in the right shoulder, the bullet exiting through his back. A 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves was wearing a riot helmet with the face shield up. He was shot in the right cheek, just below the eye, and the bullet lodged behind his ear.

The officers were released from the hospital later Thursday.St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Sunday that "officers were getting better, not getting worse."

McCulloch said Williams used a handgun that matches the shell casings found at the scene.

Williams, who Belmar said is black, is being held on $300,000 bond. County police spokesman Brian Schellman said he didn't know whether Williams had an attorney, and a message left at the St. Louis County Justice Center was not immediately returned.

Several activists who've been involved in the protests since the Brown's shooting told The Associated Press they were not familiar with Williams.

Brittany Ferrell, 26, a protest leader with the group Millennial Activists United, had just left a meeting with other leaders Sunday when word of the arrest circulated. She said no one in the group had heard of Williams.

Ferrell suspected McCulloch tried to cast him as a protester to reflect negatively on the movement.

"This is a fear tactic," she said. "We are very tight-knit. We know each other by face if not by name, and we've never seen this person before."

Williams, a north St. Louis County resident, was on probation for receiving stolen property, McCulloch said. "I think there was a warrant out for him on that because he had neglected to report for the last seven months to his probation officer," he said.

Online state court records show a man by the name of Jeffrey Williams at the address police provided Sunday was charged in 2013 with receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit/debit device.

Belmar said Thursday that the officers could have easily been killed, and called the attack "an ambush," citing the two New York City officers who were shot and killed in their police cruiser in December.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Sunday that the arrest "sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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