THE fatal shooting of a teenager which sent hundreds of angry residents on to the streets of a US city to protest came after an altercation with police.
St Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar, told a news conference yesterday that 18-year-old Michael Brown had died following an encounter with an officer.
He said the officer had allegedly been pushed back into his patrol car and assaulted before there was a struggle over the policeman’s weapon and one shot was fired in the car. The officer then got out of his vehicle and shot at a “subject”.
Locals shouted obscenities and threats such as “kill the police” on Saturday night, but there were no reports of injuries during the incident in the predominantly black town of Ferguson, Missouri.
The teenager’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, saw the 18-year-old running near her home when she passed him in her car. Minutes later, she found his body on the street. Ms Harris said she was expecting her grandson to visit her that afternoon and discovered him dead after she heard a commotion outside her apartment complex.
“He was running this way,” she said. “When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”
She said her grandson had recently graduated from high school and was looking forward to a future, that possibly included attending college.
“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”
The teenager’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told an acquaintance the shooting was “wrong and it was cold-hearted”.
According to reports Mr Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, held a sign that read: “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!”
A spokesman with the St Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the shooting at the request of the local department, confirmed a Ferguson police officer shot the man.
The spokesman did not give the reason for the shooting.
John Gaskin, a member of the St Louis County civil rights group, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation”.
He said officials in the organisation spoke to police chief Belmar, who told them the teenager had been shot twice.
Mr Gaskin said the angry crowd was reacting to a “trauma”.
“Any time you have this type of event that’s taken place, emotions are going to run high,” he said. “But for 600 people to gather around an area to see where a man is lying in the street, that means something happened that should have not happened.”
Dozens of police cars remained parked near the scene of the shooting, and mourners left votive candles, rose petals, a large stuffed animal and other remembrances at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the street.
At the height of the post-shooting tensions, police at the scene called for about 60 other police units to respond to the area in Ferguson, a town of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are black.
Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson told the local newspaper that the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“We are hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said.