President Obama appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night, where he addressed the shooting of two Ferguson police officers at a protest early Thursday morning and reminded everyone not to lose sight of the wrongs committed by local authorities and the legitimate grievances of local residents.
Obama condemned the shootings, which wounded a 41-year-old officer in the shoulder and a 32-year-old officer in the right cheek, reports Yahoo! News. Both cops sustained serious injuries, but have since been released from the hospital.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the shooting, Obama said "there was no excuse for criminal acts," but reminded the nation not to let the shooter, who has yet to be captured, detract from all of the issues in Ferguson that have come to light since Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer last summer, reports the Washington Post.
"Whoever fired those shots shouldn't detract from the issue," Obama said. "They're criminals. They need to be arrested. And then, what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides -- law enforcement, who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don't want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race -- that we're able to work together to come up with some good answers."
Obama was referencing the release of a Justice Department report that found Ferguson police officers were specifically targeting African Americans by stopping them at traffic stops and fining them for minor infractions.
Obama said the nation's thoughts and prayers are with the two officers, then continued to explain the situation in Ferguson and why there is such a major divide between cops and African-American residents:
"Well, what was happening in Ferguson was you had city government telling the police department that 'Stop more people. We need to raise more money.' Folks would get stopped. They'd get tickets. Then, they'd have to wait in line to pay it, take a day off work, folks would lose their jobs. In some cases they were thrown in jail 'cause they didn't have enough money for the fines, and then they'd get fined for that."
"There was a whole structure there, according to the Justice Department report, that indicated both racism and just a disregard for what law enforcement is supposed to do. And as I said before, I said this in Selma, it is not unique, but it's also not the norm. We've got to constantly, when we're thinking about issues of racial progress, or any kind of issue, recognize that things can get better, but there's still more work to do and we shouldn't be complacent about the very real existence of problems out there, but we shouldn't despair and think nothing's changed. If people of good will, which is the overwhelming majority of Americans, are working together, these are problems we can solve."
Following his statements about Ferguson, Obama played a familiar game with Kimmel in which he read mean tweets that have been posted about him.