Violence flares again in Missouri town where police shot teen
Ferguson, Missouri (CNN) — Hours after federal civil rights investigators and the FBI opened an inquiry into the death of a teenager shot by a police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, violence flared again in the St. Louis suburb.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson told CNN shots were fired Monday night in Ferguson, and police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered in an area where looting occurred Sunday.
“Officers were brought in to quell the hostilities,” he said. “Tear gas was deployed.”
The Saturday-night shooting, which left 18-year-old Michael Brown dead, has fueled rising tensions in the town of 21,000 and sparked national debate.
One side says the African-American teenager was surrendering, his hands in the air to show he was unarmed, when the officer opened fire. Authorities counter that Brown had attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.
After a vigil for the teen devolved into chaos Sunday when violence and looting broke out among some protesters, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called Monday for people protesting Brown’s death to do so nonviolently.
“We have seen young people giving in to violence and frustration and rage. It may be inexcusable. It is not unexpected,” Brooks told reporters. “But I say to my young brothers and sisters, note the young man whose rage is your heart, note that he was nonviolent. He never got into a fight. If you want to honor his memory, honor his memory by seeking justice nonviolently.”
Witnesses to Brown’s shooting say he was unarmed and had his hands in the air when the police officer shot him.
Authorities tell a different story. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the officer tried to get out of his vehicle just before the shooting, but Brown pushed him back into his car.
Brown “physically assaulted” the officer, Belmar said, and the teen tried to get the officer’s weapon.
Brown was shot about 35 feet from the vehicle, the chief said, declining to provide more details. The officer’s name has not been released by authorities.
“The genesis of this was a physical confrontation,” Belmar said, adding that his department has been called in to conduct an independent investigation.
The Ferguson Police Department said its cars are not equipped with dashboard cameras.
Shell casings collected at the scene were from the officer’s weapon, Belmar said.
On Monday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the shooting “deserves a fulsome review” by federal investigators.
“At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right. I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days,” Holder said in a statement. “Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Mother: ‘No violence, just justice’
The lawyer representing Brown’s parents called Monday for a swift investigation.
“We want this investigation to be done fairly, and we make a demand to the Justice Department to come in and help restore trust and confidence in the process of equal justice. … This family is very distrustful. This community is very distrustful,” attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters, calling for witnesses to come forward.
Brown’s parents urged people to remain calm.
“No violence, just justice,” the teen’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told reporters.
McSpadden said her son recently graduated from high school and was supposed to start college Monday.
“We can’t even celebrate,” she said. “We’ve got to plan a funeral.”
Standing beside the teen’s family, Brooks said the NAACP is committed to determining what happened.
“We are committed to this family, committed to seeking justice, committed to being a presence, day-in and day-out,” he told reporters.