Anger spurred by the death of a black teenager at the hands of a white police officer boiled over again when protesters stormed into a Missouri convenience store — the same one Michael Brown was accused of robbing.
Police and about 200 protesters clashed in Ferguson, Missouri, late Friday after another tense day in the St. Louis suburb that began with authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot Brown as 28-year-old Darren Wilson. At the same time, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released documents alleging Brown had stolen a $48.99 box of cigars from the convenience store and strong-armed a man on his way out.
Just before midnight, some in what had been a large, rowdy but mostly peaceful crowd broke into that same small store, Ferguson Market & Liquor, and began looting it, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. Some protesters yelled at the aggressors to stop what they were doing, and about a dozen people eventually helped protect the convenience store.
Teams of police officers holding rifles and dressed in riot gear used their cars to block a one-mile stretch along the street at the centre of the protests. Occasional firecrackers sounded in the distance.
Some in the crowd began throwing rocks and other objects at police, Johnson said. One officer was hurt; details were not immediately available. Johnson said police backed off to try and ease the tension. No arrests were made.
Brown's death had previously ignited four days of clashes with furious protesters. Tensions eased Thursday after Gov. Jay Nixon turned oversight of the protests over to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Gone were the police in riot gear and armoured vehicles, replaced by the new patrol commander who personally walked through the streets with demonstrators. But Friday night marked a resurgence of the unrest that had momentarily abated.
Jackson's decision to spell out the allegations that Brown committed the robbery, and his releasing of surveillance video, angered Brown's family and many in the community.
"They have attempted to taint the investigation," U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay told protesters through a bullhorn Friday night. "They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today."
Family attorney Daryl Parks acknowledged the man in the footage "appears to be" Brown. But he and others said Brown's family was blindsided by the allegations and release of the footage. They said that even if it was Brown, the crime didn't justify the shooting after Brown put up his hands in surrender, as witnesses describe.
Another family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said police "are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style" killing.
The surveillance video shows a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store's door. A police report alleges Brown grabbed the man who had come from behind the store counter and "forcefully pushed him back" into a display rack.
Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Brown and a companion "because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic," Jackson said Friday. Police said they found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Brown's body.
Wilson is a six-year police veteran and had no previous complaints filed against him, Jackson said, describing him as "a gentle, quiet man" who had been "an excellent officer."