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Ferguson Shooting Investigation Wide Open Despite "Scores" Of Leads

Two days after officers were shot while standing in front of the Ferguson Police Department, investigators are still unsure of the identity or motive of the gunman.

Posted on March 13, 2015, at 7:02 p.m. ET

Jeff Roberson / AP

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

FERGUSON, Missouri — St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar on Friday said the investigation into who opened fire at a protest in Ferguson two days ago, injuring two officers, was still wide open.

Belmar said that the two officers struck — one in the head, the other in the shoulder — were in good spirits at the hospital and would hopefully make a full recovery.

"I thought the officers were doing remarkably well," he said of a recent visit.

But the investigation into who shot them — including their motivation and any potential affiliation with the protesters gathered outside police headquarters that night — remained an open question, despite investigators receiving "scores of tips," Belmar said.

Hampering investigators was the fact that despite the steady stream of tips, so far, there had not been any direct eyewitness accounts of the shooting.

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When asked about the shooter's location, Belmar said investigators have reviewed all relevant surveillance footage and that officials have a "general" idea of where the shooter was standing.

Belmar has said officers that night saw muzzle flashes from gunfire about 125 yards away up on Tiffin Avenue. Given the distance, he said Friday that the shooter may have just been "lucky" to have hit a target, rather than a skilled marksman.

At the same time, given that there was a large group of officers standing shoulder to shoulder, Belmar said he wouldn't characterize it as a "miracle shot" either.

After a violent streak, protests in Ferguson on Thursday night were peaceful as local leaders worked with organizers to tamp down tensions.

The officer shootings have been condemned all around as harming the movement for change in the city.

"It undermines everything everyone is trying to do, it really does," Belmar said.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Police shine a light on a helmet as they investigate the scene where two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department on Thursday.

Besides the location of the shooter, investigators have not pinned down their identity, relationship to the protesters, or a motive, Belmar said.

That was a step back from earlier statements he gave in which he described the shooter as being "embedded" among the protesters.

Still, Belmar said authorities can't rule out "that the officers weren't targeted," citing widespread criticism of the Ferguson Police Department that he said, at times, can be "overly negative."

But he also left open the possibility that the crowd of protesters could also have been the intended target, since the shooter opened fire from behind.

"You know what, that is possible," Belmar said.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Police cars and crime scene tape block access to the Ferguson Police Department.

Also during the news conference, Belmar said his county department has considered the possibility of contracting with Ferguson to provide full police services. However, the department has not discussed what a contract for police services might look like, only considering that it might be a possibility in the future.

Ferguson police have been heavily criticized since the Department of Justice released a scathing report finding that local law enforcement engaged in rampant racial bias against African-Americans.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.