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Sunday 21 September 2014

Fresh clashes at shooting protest

Published 19/08/2014 | 02:26

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Kenneth McClain kneels in the street during a protest over Michael Brown, who was killed by police in Ferguson (AP)
State Troopers watch a protest over the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson (AP)
Demonstrators march through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, in protest at the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson (AP)

Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Ferguson again late last night, a day after the Governor of Missouri summoned the National Guard to help restore calm to the St Louis suburb where a black teenager was shot dead by a police officer.

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The latest disturbances came at the end of a day in which a pathologist hired by Michael Brown's family said the unarmed 18-year-old suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned.

But the pathologist said the team that examined Mr Brown cannot be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted until they have more information.

An independent post-mortem examination determined that Mr Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, the family's lawyers and hired pathologists said.

Witnesses have said the teenager's hands were above his head when he was repeatedly shot by an officer in Ferguson on August 9.

Protesters filled the streets after nightfall, and officers used bullhorns to order them to disperse. Police deployed noisemakers and armoured vehicles to push demonstrators back. During one confrontation, officers fired tear gas and flash grenades. There were no reports of serious injuries.

After the streets had been mostly cleared, authorities ordered reporters to leave as well, citing the risk from gunfire that had been reported.

Crowd control remained the responsibility of police, with most of the National Guard units that had been summoned by Governor Jay Nixon keeping their distance from the protests and protecting a police staging area.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the vast majority of protesters in Ferguson were peaceful, but warned that a small minority was undermining justice.

During a brief pause in his summer holiday, Mr Obama said overcoming the mistrust endemic between many communities and their local police would require Americans to "listen and not just shout".

The president also weighed in for the first time publicly on the militarisation of some local police departments, saying it would probably be useful to examine how federal grants had been used to allow local police to purchase military-style equipment.

Attorney General Eric Holder was due to travel to Ferguson later this week to meet FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Mr Brown's death.

Mr Obama said he also spoke to Mr Nixon about his deployment of the National Guard in Ferguson and urged the governor to ensure the Guard was used in a limited way.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr Michael Baden during the private post-mortem, said a bullet grazed Mr Brown's right arm. He said the wound indicated that the teenager may have had his back to the gunman, or he could have been facing the officer with his hands above his head or in a defensive position across his chest or face.

"We don't know," Mr Parcells said. "We still have to look at the other (elements) of this investigation before we start piecing things together."

A third and final post-mortem examination was performed yesterday for the Justice Department by one of the military's most experienced medical examiners, the attorney general said.

Also yesterday, Governor Nixon lifted the neighbourhood's midnight-to-5am curfew two days after it went into effect when he declared a state of emergency.

He said the National Guard troops would be under the direction of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is overseeing security during protests.

Police told protesters yesterday that they could not assemble in a single spot, saying they had to keep moving. In federal court, a judge denied a request from the American Civil Liberties Union for a restraining order that would have prevented authorities from enforcing the rule.

Two men were arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, police said. A photographer from the Getty photo agency was arrested while covering the demonstrations and later released.

Authorities were also establishing a designated protest zone for nightly demonstrations. The plan was announced yesterday by St Louis County police. It was not clear what would happen to those who refuse to use the area along the avenue where the majority of protests have occurred.

A grand jury could begin hearing evidence tomorrow to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged over Mr Brown's death, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St Louis County's prosecuting attorney.

The St Louis County medical examiner's post-mortem found that Mr Brown was shot six to eight times in the head and chest, office administrator Suzanne McCune said yesterday. But she declined to comment further, saying the full findings were not expected for about two weeks.

Family lawyer Benjamin Crump said Mr Brown's parents wanted the additional post-mortem because they feared results of the county's examination could be biased. Mr Crump declined to release copies of the report.

"They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child," he said during a news conference with Mr Parcells and Dr Baden, who has given evidence in several high-profile cases, including the OJ Simpson murder trial.

The second post-mortem, Mr Crump said, "verifies that the witness accounts were true: that he was shot multiple times".

Dr Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Mr Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered that fatal injury. The hired pathologists said the teenager, who also was shot four times in the right arm, could have survived the other bullet wounds.

Dr Baden also said there was no gunpowder residue on Mr Brown's body, indicating he was not shot at close range. However, Dr Baden said he did not have access to the teenager's clothing, and that it was possible the residue could be on the clothing.

Mr Crump also noted that Mr Brown had abrasions on his face from where he fell to the ground, but there was "otherwise no evidence of a struggle".

Press Association

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