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4 St. Louis officers hit by gunfire at protests

St. Louis police said four officers were hit by gunfire after protests that started peacefully Monday became violent overnight, with people smashing windows and stealing items from businesses and fires burning in the downtown area. The police department tweeted early Tuesday that the officers were taken to an area hospital with injuries that weren't believed to be life-threatening.

Two were shot in the leg, one in a foot and the fourth in an arm, St. Louis Police Commissioner Colonel John Hayden Junior told reporters in an overnight briefing.

It was unclear who fired the shots.

Hayden got emotional:

Police also said on Twitter that officers continued to be targeted by gunfire.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted, "Please keep these officers in your thoughts and prayers, as well as all our brave first responders responding to the unfolding situation downtown tonight."

The chaos in St. Louis followed continued protests Monday in Missouri over the death of George Floyd and police treatment of African Americans, with gatherings also held in Kansas City and Jefferson City. The nationwide protests were sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck until he stopped breathing.

Monday's protests came after peaceful daytime protests Sunday led to spurts of chaos overnight into Monday, with vehicles and buildings damaged and officers firing tear gas after being pelted with rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails.

On Monday afternoon, several hundred people rallied peacefully outside the justice center in downtown St. Louis, including Krewson and St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards. Protestors later walked to the Gateway Arch National Park and then onto nearby Interstate 64.

But later Monday, protesters gathered in front of police headquarters, where officers fired tear gas.

Some protesters smashed windows at a downtown 7-11 store and stole items from inside before the building was set on fire. Moments later, a car was set on fire and other businesses broken into and looted.

On Monday afternoon, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith kneeled with protesters gathered at the Country Club Plaza entertainment district and had what police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina later described as a good conversation with the crowd.

Not long after, Becchina said, items were thrown at police and pepper spray was used. More people began to arrive later in the evening and he said about "half a dozen"people had been detained, some who had sacks of rocks and bags of urine.

Nearly 2,000 protesters gathered early Monday evening on the Capitol grounds in Jefferson City, carrying signs reading "white silence is violence" and "say their names."

Police estimated that more than 1,500 people turned out in O'Fallon, about 35 miles west of St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Police Chief Tim Clothier locked arms and marched with protesters, saying he wanted to show support for their cause.

"We do not agree with what happened. We do not want to condone the behavior of that one officer," Clothier said.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson said Monday that the Missouri National Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are ready if violence persists.

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