Monday 20 October 2014

Call for calm after police shooting

Published 13/08/2014 | 11:55

Protesters yell at police in Ferguson, Missouri, after an unarmed teenager was shot (AP)

Nights of unrest have vied with calls for calm in a St Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager was killed by police.

Meanwhile the community is still pressing for answers about the weekend shooting.

Hundreds of residents packed two churches yesterday evening for community meetings about the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was confronted by a Ferguson officer while walking with a friend in the street near his grandmother's home.

People also gathered in the streets last night, shouting at police. Officers again fired tear gas into a crowd, according to reports.

One person was injured in a drive-by shooting, although it was not clear if the shooting was related to the protests. There were also reports that a St Louis County police officer shot and critically wounded a man who authorities said pulled a handgun on the officer.

The fatal shooting of Mr Brown has exposed deep racial and economic fault lines in the community. At one church gathering with dozens of clergy members and elected officials, Missouri governor Jay Nixon urged calm "in the face of crisis".

"We stand together tonight, reeling from what feels like an old wound torn open afresh," Mr Nixon said. "A wound that hadn't quite healed right in the first place, and now the pain is just as searing as when the injury first occurred."

The other church rally featured civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton, who earlier in the day pressed police to release the name of the police officer involved - but also pleaded for calm after a night of looting and vandalism and instances of police using tear gas.

"The local authorities have put themselves in a position - hiding names and not being transparent - where people will not trust anything but an objective investigation," Mr Sharpton said at a news conference with Brown's parents.

Police initially planned to release the name of the officer, who is on administrative leave, yesterday. But they said death threats to its officers prompted them to withhold it. Computer hackers have also targeted the city's website and released details online about individual city employees.

Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said: "If we come out and say, 'It was this officer,' then he immediately becomes a target.

"We're taking the threats seriously."

Police have not disclosed the race of the officer, but witnesses said he was white. The Ferguson force has 53 officers, three of whom are black. Mr Jackson said the city has had trouble recruiting and retaining black officers.

Investigators have released few details about the deadly encounter, saying only that a scuffle unfolded after the officer on a routine patrol asked Brown and another teen to get out of the street on Saturday afternoon. At some point, the officer's weapon fired inside a patrol car, according to the St Louis County Police Department, which is handling the investigation at the smaller city's request.

Police have said there is no security or police video of the confrontation.

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