Civil unrest in Ferguson erupts into violence
Civil unrest in Ferguson erupts into violenceReuters

Gunshots fired at police officers during a demonstration in Ferguson on 12 March, 2015, came from behind demonstrators, witnesses have claimed. People who had gathered at the police headquarters in the Missouri town to celebrate the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson said up to three shots were fired from a hill, some way back from a 50-strong crowd.

Two police officers were hit in the face and the shoulder respectively and sustained "serious injuries." Witnesses reported hearing the shots from behind them and the sound of bullets flying over their heads.

Ferguson resident Tony Rice who was at the demonstration told the LA Times: "They were way up the hill. It was the first time I'd heard a bullet whiz and pass my head."

Journalist Heather De Mian was filming events for a web livestream when the gunfire broke out. She echoed the opinion: "It came from behind us," she said.

Another reporter, Bradley Rayford, said: "The bullets went right past my head. I saw a cop on the ground, obviously in pain; they had to drag him from the front lines. You couldn't even see where it was coming from, but you saw the muzzle. We all ducked down."

Video footage posed online captured the moment the shots rang out.

Witnesses on the ground disagreed on the number of shots fired, with between three and five shots heard according to most accounts.

The violence was a disturbing escalation in the unrest between police and the community in Ferguson, which has been hit by a string of civil rights protests following the killing of black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014.

Protestors had gathered to celebrate police chief Thomas Jackson's resignation from the post, following allegations he presided over a police force rampant with racial discrimination. He was heavily criticised for his handling of Brown's death at the hands of a police officer.