The shooting of the officers, who were in serious condition at a local hospital, comes after months of turmoil in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, triggered in August by the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman.

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown thrust Ferguson into the center of an intense national debate over law enforcement's use of force against minorities, particularly against black men,
and led to months of protests nationwide.

On Thursday, a manhunt was underway after the two officers were hit by gunfire outside the Ferguson police headquarters during a protest rally staged hours after the resignation of
Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

The two officers who were shot were not part of the Ferguson force, which is almost entirely white, while the majority of the city's residents are African-American.

A 41-year-old officer from the St. Louis County Police was struck in the shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from the nearby Webster Groves Police Department was hit in the face.

"These police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they were police officers," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar on Thursday.

"I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems," he added, referring to festering tensions in the city since Brown's death last summer.

Belmar elaborated the officers, whom he did not identify, were both conscious and hospitalized.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Brown's parents, said on Thursday the family condemned the shooting and insisted that a small number of people were responsible for any violence.

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