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Why Ferguson is on a knife-edge again

US president Barack Obama has described the shooting of two police officers as an ‘ambush’.

Updated 1.15pm

Killings by Police Ferguson Protesters gather across the street from the Ferguson Police Department Source: AP/Press Association Images

THE TROUBLED US community of Ferguson, Missouri was on a knife edge again yesterday after two police officers were shot.

Police launched a manhunt, raiding a brick bungalow four blocks from the Ferguson police station and municipal court where the shooting occurred amid a late-night demonstration Wednesday.

Three people were taken in for questioning, but not arrested, St Louis news media reported, as a $10,000 reward was posted for information leading to the shooter.

President Obama response

Killings by Police Ferguson A police officer walks toward the Ferguson Police Department Source: AP/Press Association Images

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were quick to denounce the “ambush”.

Obama spoke about the incident on US talk show Jimmy Kimmel live, saying the shooting was inexcusable and detracted from people who demonstrate peacefully against mistreatment by police.

Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

“They’re criminals. They need to be arrested,” the president said.

And then what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job, and people understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race, but were able to work together to come up with some answers.

Last year, rioting erupted in Ferguson and protests spread to several US cities after a white police officer shot dead an unarmed black teenager, igniting a fierce national debate about race and law enforcement.

Then last week, Holder’s Justice Department said investigators had found evidence of deep-seated institutional racism in the city’s government and in the overwhelmingly white police force.

“African-Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money,” said Obama.

Killings by Police Ferguson A candlelight vigil in Ferguson Source: AP/Press Association Images

About 100 protesters, black and white, returned Thursday night to the Ferguson police station.

Candlelight vigil

Ferguson leaders have vowed to reform, and several have quit, but officials expressed concern that Wednesday night’s shooting will only deepen the bitter divide in the community.

“What happened last night was a pure ambush,” Holder said.

This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson, this was a damn punk, a punk who was trying to sow discord.

Obama was also angered.

“Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers,” he wrote on Twitter, warning that the “path to justice is one all of us must travel together.”

‘By God’s grace’

Killings by Police Ferguson St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar, left, answers questions as Webster Groves police Captain Mike Nelson listens during a news conference Source: AP/Press Association Images

The family of Michael Brown, the young man whose death last year in a police shooting triggered months of protests, condemned the “senseless shooting” and appealed for calm.

“By God’s grace, we didn’t lose two officers last night,” said St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar, as detectives combed the scene.

“This is really an ambush,” Belmar told reporters.

The shooting came just hours after police chief Thomas Jackson resigned.

Protest leaders expressed doubt that the shooter, who is thought to have been armed with a handgun, was among their ranks.

The injured officers — one aged 41 and the other 32, — have been released from hospital, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

One still had a bullet lodged behind his ear, Belmar said.

Killings by Police Ferguson Officers from the St. Louis Police Department walk through a crowd of protesters outside the Ferguson Police Department Source: AP/Press Association Images

- Additional reporting Aoife Barry

Originally published 8am

Read: Two officers shot near Ferguson police department>

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