FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police in riot gear fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by police over the weekend, as tension rose despite calls from his family for collective calm.
Between two nights of unrest, the local NAACP hosted a community forum Monday night that drew hundreds of people to a sweltering church in Ferguson, where an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was shot multiple times by a police officer.
A large crowd that gathered throughout Monday at the site of a burned-out convenience store turned rowdy at nightfall, with people throwing rocks at police. Officers used tear gas and shot “beanbag rounds” meant to stun them, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said.
There were at least five arrests but no reports of looting, St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said. The night before, nearly three dozen people were arrested following a candlelight vigil as crowds burned stores, vandalized vehicles, assaulted reporters and taunted officers.
“People are tired. They have reached the end of their rope,” Ruth Latchison Nichols said after the NAACP forum, where many more were left waiting outside once the pews reached capacity. “Enough is enough. This is a state of emergency.”
By early Tuesday, the streets were once again calm. A handful of police officers sat in patrol cars near the burned out gas station, vastly outnumbered by news crews putting together their early reports in Ferguson, which is nearly 70 percent black.
National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks implored residents to “turn your anger into action” while condemning the violent response to Brown’s death.
“To sneak around under the cover of darkness, to steal, to loot, to burn down your neighborhood — this does not require courage,” he said. “Courage is when you strive for justice.”
“Martin Luther King did not live and die so that we may steal and lie in the middle of the night,” he added.
Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unidentified officer approached with his weapon drawn and repeatedly fired.
Authorities have been vague about what led the officer to open fire, saying only that the shooting — which is being investigated by St. Louis County police — was preceded by a scuffle of some kind with a man in which the officer’s weapon discharged inside a patrol car.
Brown’s parents, who planned to drop their son off at a technical college Monday, have been among those calling for calm.
“Instead of celebrating his future, they are having to plan his funeral,” said family attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented relatives of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder charges.
His family also is asking for people to come forward with information or videos related to the shooting. Police have said there is no security or police video of the incident.
Investigators have refused to disclose the name or race of the officer, who is now on administrative leave. But witness Phillip Walker said he was on the porch of an apartment complex overlooking the scene when he heard a shot, and saw a white officer with Brown on the street.
Brown “was giving up in the sense of raising his arms and being subdued,” Walker told The Associated Press.
The officer “had his gun raised and started shooting the individual in the chest multiple times,” Walker said, adding that the officer then “stood over him and shot him” after the victim fell wounded.
Dorian Johnson offered a similar account, telling KMOV-TV that he and Brown were walking home from a convenience store when a police officer told them to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Johnson said they kept walking, which caused the officer to confront them from his car and again after getting out of the vehicle.
“We wasn’t causing harm to nobody,” Johnson said. “We had no weapons on us at all.”
Johnson said the first time the officer fired, he and Brown got scared and ran away.
“He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air, and he started to get down. But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots,” Johnson said.
Walker said he did not see a scuffle or the circumstances that preceded the first gunshot.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” said Crump, the family’s attorney. “(Brown) was executed in broad daylight.”
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