A weekend of demonstrations following the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri turned chaotic and violent on Sunday night, with protesters confronting police and local stores being looted.
The story began on Saturday around noon, when Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. St. Louis County police say there was a physical confrontation between Brown and the officer inside his police car, and at least one shot was fired inside the car. But other witnesses say the officer instigated the confrontation and that Brown had his hands in the air and was possibly surrendering when he was shot. He was killed about 35 feet away from the car. Brown was unarmed, and his body remained in the street for several hours as an angry crowd gathered.
Impromptu protests continued through Saturday night and Sunday, both at the scene of the shooting and outside the Ferguson police department. The demonstrations were met with a large police presence, including the use of K-9 units to disperse crowds. On Sunday evening, large crowds gathered for a candlelight vigil, when the tension boiled over around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.
According to reports, some protesters began throwing bottles at police officers and their cars, while other groups broke off and began looting nearby stores. A local Quik Trip gas station was looted and set on fire. (According to at least one report, Brown and his friends were at that Quik Trip on Saturday and were accused of stealing from the store, which may have lead to the original confrontation.) The rioting and looting continued well into early Monday morning, with a sporting goods store and auto parts shop among the business that were hit.
More demonstrations are expected on Monday, but no one is quite sure what to expect in the morning. Members of Brown's family have condemned the looting and told local news stations they will not sanction any further vigils until the situation has calmed down.
The officer involved in the shooting is still unidentified and is on paid administrative leave. The local NAACP has called for a full investigation, and Justice Department officials have said they will look into the matter as well. Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson has asked the St. Louis County police department to handle the investigation independently.
Brown had just graduated high school this spring. His mother, Lesley McSpadden, told local TV station KMOV on Saturday, “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. ‘They’re going to try to take me out anyway.’ ”