US town looted as police say slain black teenager was robbery suspect

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 2014, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 9:44am


Anger spurred by the death of a black teenager shot by a white police officer boiled over again when protesters stormed into a Missouri convenience store - the same store that Michael Brown was accused of robbing.

Police and about 200 protesters clashed in Ferguson late on Friday after another tense day in the St Louis suburb, a day that included authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot Brown on August 9.

At the same news conference in which Officer Darren Wilson was named, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released documents alleging that Brown stole a US$48.99 box of cigars from the store, then strong-armed a man on his way out.

Just before midnight, some people in what had been a large and rowdy but mostly well-behaved crowd broke into that same small store and began looting it, said Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson.

Some in the crowd began throwing rocks and other objects at police, Johnson said. One officer was hurt but details on the injury were not available.

Johnson said police backed off, hoping to ease the tension. No arrests were made.

"We had to evaluate the security of the officers there and also the rioters," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, peaceful protesters yelled at the aggressors to stop what they were doing. About a dozen people eventually blocked off the front of the convenience store to help protect it.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Thursday appointed Johnson to take over security after concerns were raised about how local police had used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters earlier in the week. Johnson said one tear-gas canister was deployed on Friday night.

Jackson's decision to spell out the allegations that Brown committed the robbery, and his releasing of surveillance video, angered lawyers for Brown's family and others, including congressman William Lacy Clay.

Earlier on Friday night, the Democratic lawmaker used a bullhorn to tell protesters. "They have attempted to taint the investigation. They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today," he said.

The surveillance video appears to show a man grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt.

Family lawyer Daryl Parks said that even if it was Brown in the video, the crime did not justify the shooting of a teen after he put up his hands in surrender to the officer, as witnesses allege.

Another family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said police "are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style" killing.

Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighbourhood-watch organiser who was acquitted of murder.