Washington: Two police officers were shot and wounded in an “ambush” on Thursday in the US city of Ferguson, spurring a manhunt for the perpetrators, according to media reports.
"We could have buried two police officers," said St. Louis county police chief Jon Belmar, according to a CNN report. "... I feel very confident that whoever did this ... came there for whatever nefarious reason that it was", he added.
The shots rang out shortly after midnight, at the end of a protest against the Ferguson police department, which has been under fire since one of its officers, Darren Wilson, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August last year.
The resentment against the Ferguson police worsened after a US Department of Justice report last week documented a pattern of systematic racism within the Ferguson police department. Ferguson, a city in the US state of Missouri and the county of St. Louis, has seen heightened tensions following Brown's shooting.
A number of black men were killed in the US by the police last year, which resulted in a wave of protests. On Wednesday, Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson resigned, after the federal report pointed out a culture of racism within the police department and municipal offices in the city.
While the demonstrators' focus was the Ferguson police department, neither of the wounded officers works in that St. Louis suburb's police department. Both the officers were treated and released from St. Louis' Barnes Jewish Hospital, the St. Louis County Police said on Facebook.
Following the attack on the police, officials said on Thursday that St. Louis County Police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol would take over security responsibilities related to the protests in Ferguson.
Authorities have not indicated if they know who shot the officers, though Belmar said that "several people ... have been very forthright" with investigators. Police have recovered shell casings that may be tied to the shooting.
Two men and a woman were reportedly questioned by the police. A police spokesman said that no one has been officially taken into custody. It is not known what connection, if any, the shooter or shooters had to Wednesday night's protest.