March 12, 2015

At a press conference held less than two hours after police officers were wounded by gunfire in St. Louis, Chief Jon Belmar pronounced the shootings to the work of people "embedded" with the protesters.

Here is the transcript in its entirety, beginning with Belmar's statement.

"There were probably 60-70 people that were up there. It wasn't all that remarkable compared to some of the things that we have experienced over the last few months, but there were quite a few people in the roadway, sidewalks and such."

"There was a contingent of police officers that were up there with different agencies assisting Ferguson and the night was fairly uneventful up until about midnight."

"At midnight the crowd was starting to break up, in fact several of the officers had left the area and to the immediate north-northwest of the police department several shots were fired -- at least three and two officers were struck. "

"A St. Louis County officer was struck in the shoulder and a Webster Groves police officer was struck in the face. Both those officers are here [at the hospital] right now, they're being treated. I don't have an official status on what their condition is right now. They are conscious. However, those are very serious gunshot injuries to be able to sustain in your upper torso and certainly in your face."

"So they're being treated right now. Family was with them and the officers will not be identified at this point, other than the fact that the St. Louis police officer is 41 years old, he's been a 14-year veteran of law enforcement. And then we have the Webster Groves officer who is 32-years old and he's been on the department for approximately 5 years."

"So I would just like to underscore if I could for a minute, we have had an occasion to be involved in many of the events in Ferguson since Michael Brown was killed and I think we've been very fortunate as we've moved forward not to have similar instances like this happen to us. "

"But I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems. 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 regarding the amount of gunfire that we've experienced up there."

"Now this evening, the only shots that we are aware of are the shots that were taken from across the street."

"In other words, these police officers were standing there, and they were shot just because they were police officers. We're conducting an investigation right now, and I'll have more on that later on."

Reporter's question: "To be clear here, this is not the people who were exercising their first amendment rights who did the shooting?"

Belmar: "I don't know who did the shooting to be honest with you right now. But somehow they were embedded in that group of folks."

Reporter: "Do you have a suspect description at all?"

Belmar: "I don't right now."

Reporter: "Do you know exactly where those officers were standing? Were they behind the police department?"

Belmar: "No, they were on South Florissant Road standing directly in front of the police department. That's the best estimate I have right now without talking to somebody. I've not been up to the scene."

Reporter: "Can you tell if they were targeted or can you tell if shots were fired into the crowd?"

Belmar: "I would have to make an assumption right now that based on the fact that these officers were standing together and there were several officers standing right there together when this happened that these were shots that were parallel to the ground, not up in the air, they weren't skip shots, and I would have to make an assumption that these shots were directed exactly at my police officers."

I was going to try and do this without making any comments, but honestly, this just doesn't smell right at all. Why would protesters who are finally seeing some movement toward progress in Ferguson choose to shoot a couple of police officers tonight, of all nights?

The KMOV clip doesn't include the very end of the press conference, where Belmar goes on to say that they're going to have to look at shutting the protests down for the safety of the police and community.

Draw your own conclusions here, but to me there's way too much that isn't right. This video, so soon after the shootings and before Belmar actually saw the scene, feels scripted and intentionally inflammatory.

Update: There is a compilation of video and tweets made in real time on this post, where you can clearly hear the shots. The person live-streaming along with others say the shots came from outside of the crowd, which was disbursing at the time.

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