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Protests turn violent in St. Louis suburb where teen was killed by police

FERGUSON, Mo. — Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old turned violent again Wednesday night.

Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at heavily armed police, who sometimes trained guns on the crowds. The night sky filled with plumes from tear gas and from smoke bombs set off to try to disperse the protesters, who demanded that Ferguson police release the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown on Saturday.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters earlier in the day that the St. Louis County investigation could take weeks to complete and that the officer who shot Brown was injured before the shooting.

He said, his department welcomes Justice Department training on racial relations in the suburb, where two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black while all but three of the police force's 53 officers are white.

"Race relations is the top priority right now," he said.

While Jackson said he wanted to mend fences, protesters faced heavily armed police, who at time trained weapons on them from an armored truck.

A crowd of about 100 people congregated late Wednesday at a corner near where Brown was shot. They were surrounded on three sides by police who were keeping their distance. Among them, a group of about seven young men were angrily yelling and demanding that police officials release the name of the police officer who shot Brown.

Later three armored vehicles approached the crowd, which had been largely quiet and peaceful. Some members of the crowd grew agitated.

One of the armored trucks had a St. Louis County police officer on top of it with a long rifle on a tripod.

The two other trucks arrived with about six officers in military fatigues hanging off the sides of both armored vehicles. The officers got off the trucks and were on the street. They appeared to be carrying rifles.

Two reporters said they were arrested while working on their coverage at a McDonald's in the area.

Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post said they were handcuffed and put into a police van after officers came in to quickly clear the fast-food restaurant. The Post reported that Lowery said he was slammed against a soda machine and plastic cuffs were put on his wrists. The reporters were subsequently released without any charges.

Martin D. Baron, the Post's executive editor, issued a statement saying "there was absolutely no justification" for Lowery's arrest and said the organization was appalled by the officers' conduct.

The action appeared to catch Jackson by surprise.

"Oh, God," he told the Los Angeles Times when he learned what had happened. Jackson called the St. Louis County Police Department, which was heading the command Wednesday night.

"I told them to release them," Jackson told the Times.

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer's weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. In their initial news conference about the shooting, police didn't specify whether Brown was the person who scuffled with the officer in the car and have refused to clarify their account.

Jackson said Wednesday that the officer involved sustained swelling facial injuries.

Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told media outlets that the officer ordered them out of the street, then tried to open his door so close to the men that it "ricocheted" back, apparently upsetting the officer. Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend's neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.

In the shooting's aftermath, the notorious hacking collective Anonymous has taken credit for burrowing into the city website and shutting it down for much of the day Monday. The group also released what it said were audio experts from St. Louis County dispatch on the day Brown was killed. Police declined to comment on the recordings Wednesday.

Information from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and St. Loiuis Post-Dispatch was used in this report.

 

Protests turn violent in St. Louis suburb where teen was killed by police 08/14/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014 12:31am]

    

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