The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Meanwhile, officials have rescinded a plan to reveal the shooting officer's identity, according to reports.
Residents of Ferguson clashed with law enforcement for the second successive night, as protests over the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, ended Monday with riot-gear-clad officers firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
More than 50 people have been arrested in protests following the Saturday shooting. Police officials claim Brown was shot after a struggle over a gun with a municipal police officer in a squad car. Witnesses, though, say the unarmed Brown had his hands raised when the police officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly.
Cops have not said why Brown was in the squad car. According to police, one shot was fired during the supposed struggle, then the officer fired several more shots before leaving the car.
In addition to the FBI’s probe, St. Louis County is also investigating the events on Saturday that have led to two nights of racially-charged tension between angered residents and a militarized, mostly white police force in the majority-black suburb of St. Louis.
Officials had planned to reveal the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown, but later decided not to follow through given the hostility surrounding the case.
— Anastasia Churkina (@NastiaChurkina) August 12, 2014
Protesters in Clayton seek justice in Ferguson; officer who shot teen won't be named: http://t.co/TPnhLy0R6s
— STLtoday (@stltoday) August 12, 2014
Ferguson police say they won't be releasing the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown "due to threats being made" on social media
— Mark Berman (@themarkberman) August 12, 2014
On Tuesday, around 250 demonstrators met outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office in Clayton to demand justice for the killing.
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 12, 2014
Clayton police are reportedly on high alert as protesters walk through the streets surrounding the county police headquarters and courthouse, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Protesters flooded the streets east of downtown Ferguson on Monday night, chanting "hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace.” They said the shooting is the latest in a storied history of police harassment of area minorities.
"They brought this on themselves," said Adam Burcher, 25, of Ferguson, according to Reuters. Burcher held a sign reading “Stop Killing” as he and others demonstrated outside the Ferguson Police Department.
In addition to tear gas, heavily-armed police officers have used German Shepherds and fired rubber bullets at protesters in attempts to intimidate and suppress outrage. Officers from other local jurisdictions were part of the police force in Ferguson on Monday, according to reports.
The NAACP called a meeting on Monday, where more than 1,000 people observed a moment of silence, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A memorial of flowers, notes, and candles grew near the apartment building where Brown reportedly was walking to see his grandmother before his interaction with police.
A mostly peaceful protest on Sunday led to more violent action later in the evening, as a QuikTrip gas station was torched and looted by angry residents. The burned-out gas station became the focus on Monday’s protests.
Brown’s family, which has urged calm since their son’s death, have hired Benjamin Crump, an attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen who was shot and killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.
"We aren't going to let this one go," said demonstrator Dreya Harris, 18, according to Reuters. "People feel like in the Trayvon Martin case that there was no justice."
Officials have yet to disclose the officer’s race, but have said the six-year police veteran is on administrative leave during the investigation into Saturday’s events.
Crump called for the US Justice Department to take control of the entire investigation.
"To bring further calm, and for people to have confidence, we need the Justice Department to take over this investigation completely and not rely on the St. Louis police," Crump told CNN on Tuesday.
That same afternoon, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced that "no pilots may operate an aircraft" in the Ferguson area below 3,000, "to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities."
About two-thirds of the 21,000-plus population of Ferguson are black, while 50 of the 53 members of its police department are white. Many of the local communities around Ferguson have seen major demographic changes in the past 40 to 50 years.
"There's a long history of racial injustice," said Terry Jones, political science professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis. "Slowly and not so surely, the St. Louis metropolitan area has been trying to figure out a way forward. As the Michael Brown shooting indicates, there are often setbacks."