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Witnesses claim St Louis youth killed by police 'had his hands in the air'

Witnesses to killing of a black youth in St Louis say he 'was giving up'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 12:46am
 

A black teenager shot dead by police in the American city of St Louis had his hands raised when the officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly, according to two men who said they witnessed the shooting.

The FBI opened an investigation on Monday into the death of Michael Brown, 18, which sparked two nights of unrest in suburban St Louis.

Police said he was shot multiple times on Saturday after being confronted by an officer in Ferguson, a suburb of 21,000 in the Midwestern city that is nearly 70 per cent black.

Authorities in Ferguson used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse a large crowd on Monday night that had gathered at the site of a burned-out convenience store damaged a night earlier, when many businesses in the area were looted.

Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said protesters threw rocks at police and gunfire came from the crowd, so officers used tear gas and shot "beanbag rounds" meant to stun.

Authorities were vague about exactly what led the officer to open fire on Brown, except to say that the shooting was preceded by a scuffle.

Investigators have refused to disclose the race of the officer, who is on leave. But Phillip Walker said he was on the porch of an apartment complex overlooking the scene when he heard a shot and saw a white officer with Brown on the street.

Brown "was giving up in the sense of raising his arms and being subdued", Walker said. The officer "had his gun raised and started shooting the individual in the chest multiple times". The officer then "stood over him and shot him".

Dorian Johnson offered a similar account that he and Brown were walking home from a convenience store when police ordered them to get off the street and on to the pavement. Johnson said they kept walking, which caused the officer to confront them from his car and again after getting out of the vehicle.

Johnson said the first time the officer fired, he and Brown ran.

"He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air, and he started to get down," Johnson said. "But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots."

St Louis police officials refused to discuss Johnson's remarks, but county police chief Jon Belmar previously said that an officer encountered Brown and another man outside an apartment complex, and that one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car and they struggled over the officer's weapon.

Jackson said there was not any video footage of the shooting from the apartment complex or police dashboard cameras.

Brown's parents and their lawyers asked for information and videos that might be related to the shooting.

The family had planned to drop their son off at a technical college on Monday to begin his studies.

"Instead of celebrating his future, they are having to plan his funeral," said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer who also represented relatives of another black youth, Trayvon Martin, after he was killed in 2012 in Florida by a neighbourhood watch volunteer.

"I don't want to sugar-coat it," Crump added. Brown "was executed in broad daylight".

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