FERGUSON, Missouri — Racially charged protests flared overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, in an eruption of fresh anger over the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer.
Tensions had temporarily cooled on Thursday night but by Friday evening, protesters were again swarming through a residential and retail district in the small town outside St. Louis that has become the site of repeated clashes between black residents and mostly white police forces.
Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, an African-American who was named by Gov. Jay Nixon to lead security in the town on Thursday, said police fired a teargas canister at a crowd near a food and liquor store, and broader violence and looting erupted. Some protesters threw bottles at riot gear-clad police who had ordered the crowd to disperse.
Tensions have been high since Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, 18, shortly after noon last Saturday as Brown and a friend walked down a street that runs through an apartment complex where Brown’s grandmother lives.
Emotions ramped up again Friday when authorities finally gave in to days of pressure and released the name of the officer who shot Brown, but did so only after first saying that Brown was a suspect in a store robbery at the time he was shot, a move that supporters of Brown’s family called a “smear” campaign.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson acknowledged in a news conference on Friday that Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect in the robbery and that the shooting resulted from the officer’s request for Brown to move out of the street. There was no connection between the shooting and the robbery, Jackson said.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Brown’s family, said in a statement issued Friday that the family was “beyond outraged” at the police attempts to “assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.”
Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said he would lead a rally with Brown’s family in Ferguson on Sunday.
The police version of Brown’s shooting differs markedly from witness accounts, including that of the friend who was walking with Brown at the time, Dorian Johnson, 22.
In the police version, after Wilson asked Brown to move out of the road onto a sidewalk, Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson for the officer’s service gun. Wilson, who suffered a facial injury, then shot Brown a number of times.
Johnson and at least one other witness have said that the officer reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and that the teenager was trying to get away from the officer when he was shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender, but the officer got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.
Police have acknowledged that Brown’s body was more than 30 feet away from the police car when he collapsed and died and that multiple shell casings were found at the scene.
Social media sites have helped fuel national outrage over the shooting, which is being investigated both by the U.S. Department of Justice for any civil rights violations and by the St. Louis County police force.
A Facebook page “handsupdontshoot” has provided one of many forums where people have shared photos, videos and commentary on the continuing saga.