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Protests turn violent in St. Louis suburb

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers worked to break up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road and West Florissant on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 in St. Louis. Nights of unrest have vied with calls for calm in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager was killed by police, while the community is still pressing for answers about the weekend shooting. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT

By
From page A5 | August 14, 2014 |

FERGUSON, Mo. — Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent Wednesday night, with people lobbing Molotov cocktails at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who has been the public face of the city torn by Saturday’s death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, told reporters earlier in the day that the St. Louis County investigation of the shooting could take weeks to complete. In the meantime, 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.

“Unfortunately, an undertow (of racial unrest) has bubbled to the surface,” said Jackson. “Race relations is the top priority right now.”

While Jackson said he wanted to mend fences with the community, protesters were on the streets of Ferguson again Wednesday, facing heavily armed police who at time trained weapons on them from an armored truck. Two reporters said they were detained by police while working at a McDonald’s in the area. The situation became more tense after nightfall, with police ordering people to go home and then using smoke bombs and later tear gas after some people threw Molotov cocktails and other things at them. Journalists who witnessed the events included an Associated Press photographer.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said he had no immediate information about the situation.

Earlier, 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 where they were doing some work. 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.

Jackson did not immediately return a cellphone message Wednesday night from the AP seeking comment.

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.

Some protesters Wednesday raised their arms above their heads as they faced the police. Others held signs asking for answers about Brown’s death. The most popular chant has been, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

Brown’s body remained on the street for hours — a span Jackson deemed “uncomfortable” but justified, given that “you only get one chance at that crime scene” to process it correctly. Jackson said authorities also were concerned about gunfire they could hear in a nearby building.

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.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 2 comments

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  • rlw895August 14, 2014 - 3:34 am

    Ugly. The riots overshadow and distract from the investigation.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Demarquis Abdullah WashingtonAugust 14, 2014 - 1:33 pm

    Its not looking good for the cop thugs. Public support has now been destroyed along with good will and public confidence. The cop thugs are now in full lying and bunker mentality mode. Attacking the news media is like attacking Switzerland---you don't do that, but yet the porker pigs did it with video cameras recording it.. Once the link between thug cop and slug politician is established, its all over for government too!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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