Updated with probation information. Jeffrey Williams of north St. Louis County has been arrested on charges of shooting two police officers shortly after midnight last Thursday in Ferguson, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced Sunday. Williams, 20, has admitted to firing the shots, but said in his statement that he was not aiming for the officers, McCulloch said.
Williams has been charged with two counts of felony assault in the first degree, two counts of armed criminal action, and with shooting a firearm from a moving vehicle. At this time, Williams has not been charged with assaulting an officer because he may not have been targeting the officers.
“The evidence at this point, based in part on (Williams’) statement, (is that) he may have had a dispute with some others individuals,” McCulloch said. “We’re not sure we completely buy that; but in any event, it’s possible he was firing at some other people.”
“I do want to point out that he did hit those two police officers. Regardless of who may be an intended target, that’s still an assault, that’s still a Class A felony, and it’s still punishable by life in prison,” McCulloch added.
Updated March 19- Williams pleaded guilty in 2014 to using a credit card he knew was probably stolen to make purchases at a North County Walgreens. Judge Gloria Reno sentenced him to five years’ probation, which meant periodic check-ins with a probation officer.
But Williams had trouble showing up for those required meetings. Judge Reno has scheduled an April hearing to consider whether Williams is violating his probation by not checking in. The Missouri Department of Corrections had already issued an arrest warrant for probation violations.
St. Louis County prosecutors have also weighed in. They say Williams’ arrest for allegedly shooting the officers is a violation of his probation too, and want it revoked. - end update
According to McCulloch, Williams was originally in Ferguson on Wednesday night to protest, and Williams has attended other Ferguson-related demonstrations.
Leaders of the protest movement, however, said on Twitter that he was not known to them. As Johnetta Elzie posted, "Looking at this guy’s photo and I've never seen him. In passing or a protest." Alexis Templeton told St. Louis Public Radio that she had never met him.
Williams was on probation for receiving stolen property and had failed to report to his probation officer for several months, McCulloch said.
McCulloch also said it was probable that protesters contributed to the evidence that led to Williams’ arrest.
McCulloch stressed that the investigation is still ongoing and that police are looking for further evidence.
Based on the evidence so far, Williams is being charged with two counts of felony assault in the first degree, one for each shot fired. He has also been charged with firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action.
According to the probable cause statement, "On March 12, 2015, the defendant Jeffrey Williams shot a St. Louis County police officer and a Webster Groves police officer at 222 S. Florissant Rd. in St. Louis County, causing serious physical injury to the officers. The defendant was inside a motor vehicle during the shooting. A weapon was recovered. Physical evidence was recovered at the scene of the incident. The defendant admitted his involvement."
St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar told reporters Sunday that the two officers shot early Thursday morning were continuing to recover. A Webster Groves officer, 32, was shot in the face, and a county officer, 41, was shot in the shoulder. Both have been released from a hospital.
Emanuele Berry and Rachel Lippmann contributed to this article.