FERGUSON, Missouri—Police shot and critically injured a man early on Wednesday morning, not far from where protesters have gathered the past few nights following last weekend’s killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police.
Around 1 a.m., St. Louis County police received a call reporting gunfire and that four or five African-American men in ski masks and armed with shotguns were walking around the area, according to NBC station KSDK.
When police arrived at the scene, they saw a number of individuals begin to run, according to local news reports. At some point one of the men reportedly brandished a handgun and aimed it an one of the officers. The officer then reportedly fired at the man, wounding him.
Authorities said about an hour earlier, a woman was wounded in what appeared to be a drive-by shooting. Her condition is still unknown, according to KSDK reports.
Police say the shootings are not related to protesting in the area.
The police-involved shooting happened about a mile from where protesters have gathered for a third night of protests that have bubbled, at times angrily, in the wake of Brown’s death.
Tuesday’s protests, by all accounts, had begun peacefully but ended with police launching tear gas into the crowd for the third consecutive night.
Earlier in the evening, local and national religious and civil rights activists held simultaneous town hall meetings calling for peace and a thorough, open investigation by authorities into Brown’s killing.
Police say Brown was killed after shoving a Ferguson police officer and then fighting for the officer’s gun. But a number of witnesses have refuted those claims.
The investigation into the shooting has been turned over to St. Louis County police. Community groups and Brown’s family have called for a federal investigation. The Department of Justice said they are keeping a close eye on the case and a DOJ spokesman told msnbc that the FBI, federal civil rights attorneys, and a team from the Community Relations Service are on the ground observing.
Four days after the incident, the Ferguson Police Department released its first press release since Brown's death. Officers have worked "diligently" to provide opportunities for residents to both grieve and voice frustrations through prayer vigils and peaceful protests, according to police.
"We are working to restore confidence in the safety of our community and our neighborhoods so that we may begin the healing process. We have heard the community's cries for justice," the statement reads, adding that people should assemble in prayer or protest "only during daylight hours."
During one of the town hall meetings, at Christ the King United Church of Christ, a racially diverse group came to call on community leaders and residents from across the city to begin the healing process.
The meeting was attended by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.
“I want what you want,” Jackson told the audience. “I want the truth and I want justice and I want it as soon as possible.”
The police have been criticized for what appears to be them withholding information from the public about the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death. A preliminary autopsy has been concluded, but authorities have refused to release any of the details. The police have also refused to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, saying that they are not releasing the name out of an abundance of caution following threats against the officer’s life via social media.
But on Tuesday, following the town hall meeting at the church, Jackson told msnbc that he reiterated that he wants to get to the bottom of what happened.
“I want to know the truth of what happened here. Because what it looks like could actually be very different from what happened,” Jackson said.
It was just about two hours before Tuesday’s shootings, and Jackson said that he was optimistic that calm, peace and healing could settle over his restless, angry city.
“I’m hopeful,” he said. “They’re angry at what I represent. But I understand. This is my city, I live here too, this is my community.”
Michele Richinick contributed reporting.