Tyrone Harris charged after Ferguson anniversary shooting
Published 10/08/2015 | 10:23
Prosecutors in Ferguson, Missouri, have charged an 18-year-old man with assaulting police officers on the anniversary of the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
Tyrone Harris Jr opened fire on officers and was critically wounded when they shot back, St Louis County's police chief said.
But his father called the police version of events "a bunch of lies". He said his son was unarmed and had been drawn into a dispute involving two groups of young people.
St Louis County prosecutors announced 10 charges against Harris - five counts of armed criminal action, four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and a firearms charge.
Protest groups have condemned the police response to protesters who gathered along West Florissant Avenue on Sunday.
The anniversary of Brown's killing, which cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, has sparked days of renewed protests, though until Sunday they had been peaceful and without any arrests.
St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference that officers had been tracking the suspect, who they believed was armed, during a protest marking the death of Brown.
At the height of what was already a rowdy protest in which rocks and bottles were thrown at officers, gunshots rang out from the area near a strip of shops, including some that had been looted.
At one point, the suspect crossed the street and apparently spotted the plain clothes officers arriving in an unmarked van with distinctive red and blue police lights, police said. Harris is said to have shot into the windscreen.
The officers fired back at him from inside the vehicle and then pursued him on foot when he ran.
The suspect fired on officers again after he became trapped in a fenced-in area, the police chief said, and all four officers fired back. He was struck and fell.
Harris was taken to a hospital, where he is in a "critical, unstable" condition.
Tyrone Harris Sr told The Associated Press his son was a close friend of Michael Brown and was in Ferguson on Sunday night to pay respects.
Harris said his son got caught up in a dispute among two groups of young people and was "running for his life" after gunfire broke out. He said his son had no weapons.
"My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot," he said. "It's all a bunch of lies ... They're making my son look like a criminal."
The father said he spoke with two girls who were with his son.
The suspect had a semi-automatic 9mm gun that was stolen last year from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, police said.
None of the officers were seriously injured. All four have been put on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. They were not wearing body cameras.
Police chief Belmar waved off any notion that the people with the weapons were part of the protest.
"They were criminals. They weren't protesters," he said.
Kayla Reed, a field organiser with the Organisation of Black Struggle, said: "It was a poor decision to use plain clothes officers in a protest setting because it made it difficult for people to identify police officers, which is essential to the safety of community members.
"After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plain clothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer's account of the incident, which is clearly problematic."