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Ky. unrest after police shooting no surprise, black residents say

A young black man was shot to death by a police officer trying to serve a warrant, touching off a disturbance that resulted in several hundred people marching on streets in downtown Lexington and hurling rocks. Store windows were smashed and nine people were slightly injured.

The white officer who shot Antonio Sullivan said his gun went off accidentally after he and four other officers tried to arrest the 18-year-old Tuesday morning as he emerged from a closet at his girlfriend's house. Sullivan was shot in the head.

The officer was relieved of duty pending an investigation by the commonwealth attorney's office.

The FBI joined the investigation Wednesday to determine whether Sullivan was a victim of police brutality.

Residents of the mostly black neighborhood near downtown said the shooting was inevitable and representative of routine racial abuse by police.

And they say the unrest was no surprise, because residents feel they have been backed into a corner.

As word of Sullivan's shooting spread Tuesday, about 200 black people overturned cars, smashed windows and threw rocks and bottles. Five police cars and two media vehicles were damaged. Officers in riot gear guarded courts and city buildings. Seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Residents met with police officials Tuesday night at a community center. They complained that police routinely pick on young blacks and that less experienced officers are too quick to show force.

"If you can't teach them to communicate with today's young black men, get them out," a black woman said. "We don't want them here."

Residents say police have often gone way over the line. They speak of police harassing young African-American men, often searching them by making them bend over fences. They complain that city officials have removed basketball courts and have done little to provide jobs and recreation that will provide meaningful outlets for young people.

"The undercurrent has been there all along," said Joy Harris. "We have been dealing with this all summer."

Until police officers learn to treat young blacks as individuals and with respect, young blacks will not give them respect in return, she said. Blacks need to develop self-esteem from their parents, schools and churches, Harris said, while whites need to acknowledge and accept blacks as equals.