A day of protests and vigils Sunday over the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was killed following an altercation with a Ferguson police officer, turned violent overnight with reports of riots and looting.
A gathering of mourners at the shooting site Sunday night for Brown, 18, who was to begin his first day in college today, quickly turned violent as people struggled to understand how police could shoot an unarmed teenager in broad daylight.
“We are currently experiencing a riot,” a Ferguson police dispatcher said.
The sound of gunfire was reported in the neighborhood late Sunday.
About 150 officers in riot gear from throughout St. Louis County, along with canine units and a SWAT team, were sent to the area, a dispatcher for the St. Louis County Police Department said.
Hundreds of demonstrators – as many as 1,000 at the peak of the protests, according to police – gathered at the site of the shooting on Saturday, some of them shouting “Kill the police” and “Don’t Shoot,” a county police spokesman said, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune.
SWAT outside Walgreens at W. Florisant and Chambers. pic.twitter.com/7oh9vLqiLv
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 11, 2014
There was no immediate word on injuries.
Although authorities are still investigating the incident, St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar said a struggle between Brown and a police officer somehow ensued inside of a police cruiser.
“It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon,” Belmar told a news conference on Sunday.
Police cruisers in Ferguson, a town of some 23,000 people, are not equipped with dash cameras, which would have proven valuable to investigators, nor are there surveillance cameras at the apartment complex where the incident occurred.
Police officials will be hard pressed to explain why the victim was reportedly shot eight times in the course of the altercation.
Brown’s mother told local TV channel KSDK that her son was ready to go to college and was visiting his grandmother when the incident took place.
“He didn’t bother nobody,” she said. “They told me how many times my son was shot – eight,” she added.
The officer involved in the incident, who has not been identified, has been described as a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, Belmar told reporters.
— Paulina Leonovich (@Polly_evro) August 11, 2014
The shooting has brought to the surface lingering tensions between “black residents of North County and a predominantly white Ferguson police force,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Meanwhile, officials have not disclosed the race of the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay tweeted Sunday saying he stands with County Executive Charlie Dooley in his call “for a full and open inquiry into yesterday’s shooting in Ferguson.”
Meanwhile, Americans continue to debate exactly what is it about their society that makes such incidences increasingly commonplace. Sahar Aziz, Associate Professor of Law, told RT that part of the problem stems from US police approaching problems from an “egotistical” perspective.
“I think much of the brutality comes from a cultural problem where police officers have an egotistical approach and a power structure where they can get away with almost anything because they are ‘the police,'” she said.
The St. Louis County office of the civil rights group NAACP has said it wants the FBI to examine the case, with many in the community telling media that police in too many incidences use racial profiling when confronting individuals on the street.