Tear Gas Used as Protests Erupt in Ferguson, Missouri

A police officer responds to looting Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Police fired canisters of tear gas into crowds of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, on Sunday night, the second night of a midnight curfew imposed in the tense St. Louis suburb where unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot to death last week by police.

Livestreams of the scene on the ground in Ferguson showed multiple canisters of smoke and tear gas being fired into crowds on Sunday night, while there were several unconfirmed reports of shots fired, at least one of which was later cleared by police as fireworks. Several reporters on the ground clashed with police; there were reports of looting and a fire at Delwood Market, and MSNBC's Chris Hayes, reporting from Ferguson, said he was on the scene of what appeared to be a car crash, with multiple bodies being removed from the scene.


Police on Sunday had blocked off at least one street to vehicle traffic before the sun even set, as officials said they would decide on a day-by-day basis whether to extend the curfew, imposed Saturday night by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in an effort to quell protests and looting. 

Meanwhile, a preliminary private autopsy of Brown performed on Sunday found that he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The bullets do not appear to have been fired at close range. 

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier on Sunday ordered a federal autopsy of Brown's body, seeking to assure the family and community there will be a thorough investigation into the shooting. Holder said the autopsy would be conducted in addition to one being conducted by state medical examiners "due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family," Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said. The family is also planning to have a pathologist conduct an independent examination of the body, a family spokesman said.

Eighteen-year-old Brown, who was black, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. The police department in the St. Louis suburb has come under strong criticism for both the death of an unarmed man and its handling of the aftermath.

Ferguson Police use a large mall parking lot as a staging area and command post for addressing protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Ron Johnson, the Highway Patrol captain whose leadership had defused tensions in Ferguson earlier in the week, told hundreds of people gathered at a local church for a rally on Sunday that he was committed to protecting their right to protest.

"I'm sorry," Johnson, who is black, told Brown's family during remarks that prompted repeated standing ovations at the rally. "My heart is heavy."

On Saturday night, seven protesters were arrested in Ferguson after failing to disperse as the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew went into effect. Police used canisters of smoke and later tear gas to disperse the crowd, and one person was shot and critically wounded during the night. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear, and the shooter was still at large, police said. Johnson said police were unable to identify the victim, who he said was not shot by police.

Johnson also said someone had shot at a passing police car and was not apprehended.

On CBS' Face the Nation, Nixon said he did not know how long the curfew would be in place, and criticized the Ferguson police department for its decision to release a video that allegedly showed Brown taking part in a convenience store robbery shortly before the shooting. Police have said the officer who shot Brown had no idea he was a robbery suspect.

"I think it had an incendiary effect," Nixon said. "[Police are] "clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting."

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson defended the release of the surveillance video, over the objections of the U.S. Justice Department. Jackson said he was complying with the news media's requests for information in the case.

The decision to release the video while not giving details of the shooting only fueled outrage. The clashes in Ferguson have pitted mostly black protesters against mostly white police in a residential and retail district.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the St. Louis County Police department are investigating Brown's death, which has been described differently by the police and by a friend who was walking with him at the time.

Police say that 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 sustained a facial injury, then shot Brown a number of times.

Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, 22, and at least one other witness have said the officer reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and 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.

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