The FBI took over the investigation Monday of a weekend shooting in which an officer here killed an unarmed 18-year-old.
The St. Louis County NAACP, which will have a meeting for area residents at 6 p.m. CT Monday, had called for the FBI to investigate the death of Michael “Mike” Brown, shot multiple times Saturday after police say he was involved in a scuffle with an officer and another person in this predominantly black St. Louis suburb.
“It is our hope that this discussion will provide accurate and reliable information to be shared with the community,” Esther Haywood, president of the county’s NAACP, said in a statement. “Our expectation is to educate the public on the NAACP’s strategy toward justice for the Brown family and the community.”
The St. Louis County executive and Ferguson police chief also they welcomed FBI involvement. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also said Monday that he requested an independent U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
“I ask St. Louis County residents to exercise patience and respect for their neighbors as federal authorities work to get to the bottom of what happened,” Nixon said in a statement.
Details about the shooting remain murky. Police say an officer shot Brown multiple times after an altercation the young man and another person, but have not explained what led the officer to open fire. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told KSDK-TV that he will release the name of the officer who fired the fatal shots at a noon press conference on Tuesday.
A young man who identified himself as the friend with Brown, Dorian Johnson, told KMOV-TV that he and Brown were walking home from a convenience store when a police officer told them to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Johnson said they kept walking, which caused the officer to confront them from his car and then outside his car. Johnson said the officer fired, and he and Brown were scared and ran away.
“He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air and he started to get down,” Johnson said. “But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
“We wasn’t causing harm to nobody. We had no weapons on us at all,” Johnson told the television station.
The St. Louis County Police Department, which is heading the local investigation, would not comment on Johnson’s recounting. But on Sunday, Chief Jon Belmar said the incident started when a Ferguson officer encountered Brown and another male on the street near an apartment complex. One male pushed the officer into his police vehicle, Belmar said.
The men had a struggle inside the car, Belmar said, and at some point a man — it was unclear whether it was Brown — reached for the officer’s weapon. One shot was fired inside the vehicle.
The fight moved outside the squad car and Brown suffered fatal gunshot wounds about 35 feet from the vehicle, Belmar said. The second person has not been arrested, and police are not sure whether he was armed.
Police early Monday used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered a few hours earlier for a candlelight vigil for Brown. More than 300 officers from 19 St. Louis-area departments were called in.
At least one convenience store was looted and set on fire in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents 10 miles northwest of St. Louis. Twelve businesses along a main road near the shooting scene were broken into, including a check-cashing store, a boutique, a small grocery store, a sporting goods store, a cellphone retailer, a tire store and a Walmart. As people carted away goods from several of the stores, police moved in.
“Most came here for a peaceful protest but it takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” said Deanel Trout, 53, who has lived in Ferguson for 14 years. “I can understand the anger and unrest, but I can’t understand the violence and looting.”
He thinks the troublemakers largely came from outside Ferguson and that they had used the angst at the vigil as an opportunity to steal.
Thirty-two people were arrested and two officers had minor injuries — one injured a knee, another was struck with a brick, authorities said. One officer was shot at but not injured, nearly a dozen patrol cars were damaged, and someone in the crowd fired shots at a police helicopter but did not hit it, according to St. Louis County Police.
By mid Monday, employees of the businesses affected were cleaning up their parking lots, calling for glass repairs and trying to reopen.
Investigators found multiple shell casings at the scene. Brown was shot more than once, but an exact number of shots fired has not yet been determined, Belmar said. All the shell casings came from the officer’s weapon.
“Our prayers go out to the family and friends of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo.,” said Cornell Williams Brooks, president of the national NAACP. “The death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking.”
Brown’s family has retained civil-rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin after that teen was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. The Rev. Al Sharpton said he plans to meet with Brown’s family Monday night or Tuesday in Ferguson.
Crump told USA TODAY that Monday would have been the teen’s first day of college.
“Instead of his mother and grandmother celebrating and looking forward to his future, they are having to try to plan out his funeral,” Crump said. “And for what? It’s so hard to fathom what those witnesses said–that he (Brown) is putting his hands up and the police shoot anyway.”
He and the family are holding a press conference at 4 p.m.
Crump said he and the family want the Department of Justice overseeing an investigation because “The family has no trust in the local police agencies.”
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson asked county police to take over the investigation from the local department, Belmar said. Results of the investigation will be turned over to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which will determine if charges should be filed.
No video footage is available of the shooting from apartment or police cruiser cameras, Jackson said. The department recently bought lapel cameras but haven’t begun using them.
“My son just turned 18 and graduated from high school, and he don’t bother nobody,” Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said Saturday night. Brown was to start at Vatterott College, a trade school, next week.
She doesn’t understand why police didn’t use a club or Taser if he presented a problem. She said the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.
“They told me how many times my son was shot — eight,” McSpadden said. He was visiting his grandmother and was returning from the store.
“I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty,” she said about the officer, fighting back tears.
The race of the officer involved in the shooting has not been disclosed. He has been placed on paid administrative leave. The community is almost 70% black.