DAY FOUR WRAPUP: Protesters, police again facing off in Ferguson

2014-08-13T09:00:00Z 2014-12-09T15:46:07Z DAY FOUR WRAPUP: Protesters, police again facing off in FergusonFrom staff reports stltoday.com
August 13, 2014 9:00 am  • 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Updates have moved to a new story file here

Police respond to bottle-throwing with smoke bombs. 

Stephen Deere and Paul Hampel at 8:45 p.m.

The situation along West Florissant Avenue remains tense but calm with approximately 200 demonstrators keeping a distance of 25-feet from police.

"You may keep your right to assemble and continue your peaceful protest if you back away," police warn  protesters that inch forward. 

Stephen Deere and Paul Hampel at 8:25 p.m.

A march down West Florissant Avenue from Chambers Road ended at the corner of Canfield Drive, not far from where Michael Brown was shot.

A crowd of about 100 people congregated at the corner. They were surrounded on three sides by police who were keeping their distance.

Many were calmly repeating the now-familiar chant, "No justice, no peace."

Among them, a group of about seven young men were angrily yelling and demanding that police officials release the name of the police officer who shot Michael Brown.

Later three armored vehicles approached the crowd, which had been largely quiet and peaceful. Some members of the crowd grew agitated.

One of the armored trucks had a St. Louis County police officer on top of it with a long rifle on a tripod.

The two other trucks arrived with about 6 officers in military fatigues hanging off the sides of both armored vehicles. The officers got off the trucks and were on the street. They appeared to be carrying rifles.

A police official said they brought in the armored vehicles because the crowd was supposed to disperse at 5:30 p.m. to open up the road to traffic.

A line of 20 St. Louis County and Ferguson police officers faced an agitated crowd as the 6 o'clock hour neared.

Police at one point conferred with the Rev. Rev. Spencer Lamar Booker of St. Paul AME Church, the organizer of the clergy-led parade, where demonstrators have been gathering throughout the day.

The conversation ended with Booker announcing “the parade is over. Let's all move on now.”

It proved easier said than done as the crowd hurled insults at officers .

One young man shouted, “We're not dogs, so what the hell you've got those whipping sticks for? Because you want to whip us like dogs.”

A huge man in a muscle t-shirt, jeans and a Ralph Lauren cap pointed a finger at an officer and warned, “If I'm going to go, I'm taking one of you with me.”

A St. Louis County tactical operations armored vehicle blocked the intersection horizontally at that very moment. Police protected by body armor sat atop the vehicle and methodically fit 40-caliber automatic weapons into tripods and trained them on crowd.

“You are being ordered to leave now!” an officer annunced through a public address system. “If you don't leave peacefully there will be arrests.”

The crowd initially ignored the demand but later began to disperse.

- Koran Addo and Paul Hampel, 6 p.m.

•••

Ferguson-Florissant cancels first two days of school

The Ferguson-Florissant school district has cancelled school for Thursday and Friday in response to ongoing unrest in the community.

"In order to allow additional time for the situation to stabilize and for all of our students and their families to resume normal routines, we will reschedule the first day of school for Monday, August 18," a news release states. "We believe that this change will help ensure a strong start to the new school year."

- Jessica Bock, 6:15 p.m.

•••

Teen in critical condition after being shot by police near Ferguson site; charged Wednesday afternoon

Prosecutors filed felony charges late Wednesday afternoon against a man shot by police in a confrontation earlier in the day.

Esrail Britton, 19, was charged with second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action. He remained hospitalized, and earlier in the day was reported to be in critical condition.

Officials said they have two addresses for Britton, both of them vacant dwellings in the St. Louis area.

The shooting occurred about 1 a.m. at West Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road, in unincorporated St. Louis County, as county police responded to a report of four of five men with masks and shotguns in an area where shots were heard.

When police arrived, "upwards of 30 people started scattering," Officer Brian Schellman said. Police shot one of them, Britton, several times when he pointed a 9mm handgun at an officer.

The scene is near an area where violence has broken out at protests over Saturday's shooting by a Ferguson police officer of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.

-Valerie Schremp Hahn, Kim Bell and Joel Currier updated 6:30 p.m.

•••

Prosecutor: Review will take time

Prosecutors will take as much time as necessary to review the facts surrounding the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown before presenting the case to a grand jury, said St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch.

"The timeline on this is there is no timeline," McCulloch told reporters today at a news conference. "We will do this expeditiously as possible. But we won't rush."

McCulloch answered numerous questions about the investigation. He stressed the evidence will be taken to a grand jury. McCulloch also referenced efforts to coordinate with a parallel federal civil rights investigation. He said his office has had several meetings with the U.S. Attorney's office and FBI to "make sure that we're on the same page, we're not falling all over each other."

Evidence gathered in the state case will likely be presented to the grand jury in more than one session, McCulloch said. If an indictment is returned, McCulloch said, all of the evidence will be "potentially be made public" through the course of any subsequent prosecution. If the grand jury determines that there will be no indictment, McCulloch said, all of the assembled information will be made public immediately.

"I know that's not the answer anybody wants to hear at this point," he said. "Everybody wants to know what happened."

McCulloch said the problem is two-fold. First, McCulloch said, ethical rules prevent prosecutors from disseminating the physical evidence before the case. Second, McCulloch said he won't do anything to corrupt the integriry of the investigation.

In response to a reporter's question, McCulloch said it will certainly take more than two weeks to complete the investigation. He offered no specific estimate of the timetable. He cited a heavy volume of information that is being gathered in the case.

"We want to test the veracity and accuracy of anybody who comes to us," McCulloch said.

McCulloch said a lot of information has come forward through social media, "some of it good, some of it bad."

He stressed that the medical examiner's report, 911 tapes and other investigative material will be withheld at this point.

McCulloch asked anyone with information to get in touch with county or federal authorities.

- Ken Leiser, 5:15 p.m.

•••

ACLU, National Bar Association seek police reports

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Bar Association filed open records request for police reports of the Michael Brown shooting incident. The ACLU, which asked for initial incident reports from Ferguson and St. Louis County police, has not received a response from Ferguson but was turned down by the county, ACLU Legal Director Tony Rothert said.

ACLU Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said that one of the issues surrounding the shooting is the community's lack of trust in how police shootings are investigated. “And we think that starting off by denying the public the right to a document we're entitled to is not the way to begin a difficult time.”

- Robert Patrick, 5:30 p.m.

•••

Body released to family

Authorities released Michael Brown's body to his family on Wednesday. Funeral arrangements were pending at the Austin A. Layne Mortuary.

-Michael Sorkin, 5 p.m.

•••

QuikTrip site continues to draw protesters

Sharon Golliday Wednesday afternoon implored the young men gathered on the sun-baked parking lot of the burned out Ferguson QuikTrip to leave the premises by evening.

"I don't want to see any of you hurt," said Golliday, a self-described "peace mother" from the Bethesda Temple Church in Ferguson. "I don't want to see any of you go to jail. Please leave by 7:30 — that's the right thing to do. Don't give the police the satisfaction of making yourselves targets tonight."

The young men listened politely while simultaneously rejecting her plea. Read more here.

-Paul Hampel, 5:45 p.m.

•••

Ferguson chief says police are working with the Justice Department on race relations in city

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said today that his department is working with the U.S. Department of Justice community relations office on race relations in the community.

"We have always had real good relations with all of the neighborhood associations," Jackson told reporters during a wide-ranging news conference in Ferguson addressing the shooting of Michael Brown by an officer on Saturday. "Apparently, there's been this undertow that now has bubbled to the surface, and it's our first priority to address it, to fix what's wrong."

Representatives of the department will be meeting as soon as Thursday with Brown's mother. Ferguson police are working with the Department of Justice and the NAACP to arrange that, Jackson said. He did not elaborate.

Some have complained about how long Brown's body was in the street. Jackson said Brown's body was left on the street to make sure the investigation wasn't compromised. He did not say exactly how long it was before Brown's body was removed.

"You only get one chance at that crime scene," Jackson said. "We wanted to make sure we got it right."

He said shots were fired from a nearby building several times while investigators were working, slowing the investigation.

"Now we have to make sure the crime scene investigators are safe," he said.

He said Brown's body was covered when possible. That's been another point of dispute on social media and among protesters.

Jackson said the officer who shot Brown suffered facial injuries and was taken to a hospital. He didn't address how the injuries occurred. He said he's aware of no video of the encounter between the unnamed officer and Brown.

With regard to the racial makeup of the Ferguson police department, Jackson said he has worked to improve the diversity of the police department, adding it is a "constant struggle to hire and retain personnel." In the past few years, Jackson said, he has tried not only to recruit but improve quality of life in the department, including pay levels, to retain officers longer.

Jackson repeatedly denied that a curfew is in effect in Ferguson, but agreed with city officials who implored demonstrators to maintain peaceful protests and to gather during daylight hours. He opened by telling reporters that there would be a peaceful march at 4 p.m. The march will start at Chambers Road and West Florissant Avenue and head to Canfield Drive, near where Brown was shot.

"There are some people that come out and after dark it does get a little dangerous," Jackson said. "So we think it is better for peaceful demonstrations to occur during the daylight."

He said most protesters are peaceful but some people have turned to violence late at night.

Jackson said there's no curfew in effect but that the department is asking people not to protest at night because of what he said was a greater potential for danger.

"We're just asking that the protests be peaceful," Jackson said. "We understand the anger. We understand the people want answers. We understand that we've got a problem. But we're just asking people to be peaceful, and that we are actively working to resolve this situation to get truth and get justice."

Jackson said the department is still reviewing requests for 911 tapes of the incident. The tapes have to be downloaded and reviewed by attorneys.

He apologized for the amount of time it is taking to process the request for the emergency tapes.

Jackson said officers from other cities are guarding the homes of his officers because of concerns about their safety amid threats. 

- Joel Currier, 4 p.m.

•••

Man who says he witnessed Michael Brown shooting speaking to police

A young man who said he was there when a Ferguson police officer fatally shot Michael Brown was talking to authorities Wednesday afternoon.

Dorian Johnson, 22, has repeatedly told media since Saturday that the officer instigated the confrontation by ordering them to “get the F on the sidewalk” and by grabbing Brown, 18, in the throat. Johnson has refuted the statement by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar that Brown reached in the car and struggled for the officer’s gun.

Johnson’s statement is significant to what the public has heard about the case. Because he says he was walking with Brown in the street on Saturday, and encountered the police officer together with Brown, he would be the closest eyewitness to the shooting.

Johnson’s lawyer, Freeman Bosley Jr., the former mayor of St. Louis, said this morning he was on his way to pick up his client to talk to the FBI and to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch. St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman said this afternoon that Johnson was being interviewed.

Bosley has said that police initially did not want to talk to Johnson.

Schellman said police had made several efforts to talk to Johnson, but that Bosley had not returned their calls, and that officers could not find Johnson at his home.

“Obviously we’re not avoiding this guy,” he said. “This is the guy we have to talk to.”

- Jeremy Kohler, 4 p.m.

•••

Officer who shot Michael Brown has retained attorney

The officer who shot Michael Brown has retained a lawyer.

- Robert Patrick, 2:45 p.m.

•••

Federal officials say investigation will be "thorough and complete"

Federal officials have launched a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, according to a joint statement issued today by Richard Callahan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, William Woods, FBI special-agent-in-charge in St. Louis, and Molly Moran, acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.

Those offices will work with local authorities who are investigating whether there were state law violations.

"While the investigation will be handled as expeditiously as possible, our pledge to the community is that it will be a thorough and complete investigation," the officials said in a prepared statement.

Callahan, Moran and Woods urged witnesses or those with information who have not yet come forward to contact the St. Louis FBI office at 314-589-2500.

- Ken Leiser, 4 p.m.

•••

Daytime-only rallies and protests please, Ferguson says

Ferguson city leaders are trying to stem the riots by urging anyone who wants to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown to assemble only during daylight hours.

Mayor James Knowles III and the Ferguson City Council posted the request on the city website, following several nights of unrest.

The announcement says the city mourns the loss of Brown and wants to give people an opportunity to "voice frustrations through prayer vigils and peaceful protests."

It goes on to say: "We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner." Participants should disperse well before the evening hours, the city says.

"Unfortunately, those who wish to co-opt peaceful protests and turn them into violent demonstrations have been able to do so over the past several days during the evening hours," the city says. "These events are not indicative of the City of Ferguson and its residents."

The city leaders' post says Ferguson has been through tough situations before — "albeit nothing to this magnitude, but will continue to display resilience and fortitude."

-Kim Bell, noon

•••

Surveillance of St. Louis shoe store looting released; gas station also hit

St. Louis police have released video of the looting of a Shoe Carnival store in a shopping center on Gravois Avenue in St. Louis shortly before midnight Monday.

St. Louis police also are investigating a break-in at a Phillips 66 gas station and convenience store in Lafayette Square early Tuesday.

Police are asking anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477.

- Ken Leiser, 1:30 p.m.

•••

Chief keeping officer's name secret because of threats

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday morning explained his thinking in keeping secret the name of the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown on Saturday.

Jackson said he is not releasing the officer's name, primarily for the officer's safety and the safety of the rest of Jackson's department.

Jackson says he is concerned about online activist group Anonymous' threats Tuesday to release personal information about Ferguson officers — and, now, Florissant police officers, as well.

- Steve Giegerich at 10:10 a.m.

•••

Woman shot in head in drive-by attack near QuikTrip

About 12:20 a.m. Wednesday, a woman was shot in the head in the 1300 block of Highmont Drive, west of West Florissant Avenue near the QuikTrip gas station, St. Louis County Police said. Ferguson police said the wound was superficial.

It appeared to be a drive-by shooting. Police said they were looking for four or five men. The woman was shot once and is expected to survive. It was unknown if the shooting was related to the protests in the area.

Protesters seemed to have mostly left the area but a crowd gathered at West Florissant and Chambers Road shortly after midnight, facing off with a line of police officers.  Police deployed tear gas into the crowd as they advanced east.

- Valerie Schremp Hahn at 1:30 a.m.

•••

OUR EARLIER STORY

FERGUSON • At two meetings with distinctly different tones, the call Tuesday night was for justice.

Packed houses at two churches heard speakers discuss the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday afternoon — a killing that has rocked that suburb and drawn international attention to St. Louis.

At Christ the King United Church of Christ near Black Jack, speakers included Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who told the standing-room audience, “Justice must not simply be pursued, but in fact achieved. Instead of burning bridges in anger, we must rebuild them with love.”

The racially diverse audience of about 400, many of whom were ministers, politely applauded the speakers, even Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who told them, “I want what you want. I want the truth and I want justice and I want it as soon as possible.”

The other assembly at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church on Chambers Road east of Ferguson also was standing-room. It also was much louder and less formal — rocking at times — and the audience chanted and cheered as they waited for the Rev. Al Sharpton to speak.

SHARPTON PUTS ST. LOUIS IN SPOTLIGHT

JUSTICE DEARTMENT GETS MORE INVOLVED

MCCLELLAN: ALL KILLINGS SHOULD STIR OUTRAGE

HACKER ACTIVISTS  TARGET FERGUSON

BLACKS ARE VAST MAJORITY OF FERGUSON TRAFFIC STOPS

HELPING KIDS COPE WITH EXPOSURE TO OUTRAGE

PEACEFUL PROTESTERS STRUGGLE TO BE HEARD

When he took the pulpit, he led them in a thunderous chant, “No justice, no peace.” He noted that Ferguson has only a few black police officers and that most of the arrests are of black people.

“You’ve got issues in this city,” Sharpton said. People jumped to their feet when he spoke of seeking the truth and said, “As soon as you turn on the lights, the roaches start running.”

Outside the church on Chambers, several hundred people marched back and forth, their leaders urging everyone to be peaceful. A man yelled into a bullhorn, “The whole world is watching... We are going to do this the right way. No violence, just justice.”

At the church in Florissant, other speakers included Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and the pastor, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, who said, “We are here because we will not rest until we have justice.” Also attending were St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Sam Dotson.

After the speeches, members of the audience asked questions. Someone asked why the Ferguson officer’s name hasn’t been released. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch responded, “It’s a matter of protocol. We don’t release names until charges are filed.”

STILL TENSE

Across the area Tuesday, events remained peaceful, if occasionally tense.

Shortly after 6 p.m., more than 100 protesters gathered near the hulk of the QuikTrip at 9240 West Florissant Avenue, which was looted and burned during violence Sunday night and has been ground zero for the protests ever since. It also was where police in riot gear formed in sturdy formations and fired tear gas into a crowd Monday evening, scattering that night’s protest.

On Tuesday evening, protesters again chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot” — a rallying cry of the string of protests since Saturday. Riot police, backed by SWAT armored vehicles, blocked West Florissant. The crowd then marched toward the church where Sharpton was to speak.

Dominque Bishop, 22, of Florissant, said she was marching for her two brothers. “It could have been one of my siblings,” Bishop said.

Later in the evening, another crowd had again gathered at the QuikTrip but by about 11:30 p.m. it had mostly dispersed.

For the most part, the talk Tuesday was more redress, less outrage. From the Old Courthouse downtown to the White House in Washington, the calls were for nonviolence. President Barack Obama issued a statement urging Americans to remember Brown through “reflection and understanding.”

“We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” Obama said. “Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.”

On the steps of the Old Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon, Sharpton stood with Brown’s family and their lawyer and said people “want answers,” but should pursue them peacefully.

“I know you are angry,” he told the gathering on the courthouse steps. “I know this is outrageous ... But we cannot be more outraged than his mom and dad. If they can hold their heads in dignity, then we can hold our heads up in dignity.”

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., whose district includes Ferguson, called for an “expanded” federal investigation to specifically explore “the potential for any pattern or practice of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department.”

At the place where Brown was killed in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive, his parents and other relatives gathered briefly Tuesday afternoon and released about a dozen red balloons. Then they walked to his grandmother’s apartment, which they said had been his destination when he was shot Saturday afternoon.

In Clayton on Tuesday morning, police closed Carondelet Avenue near the county Justice Center during a march by about 250 people.

“Hey hey, ho ho, racist cops have got to go,” some in the crowd chanted. They also complained that there aren’t enough African-Americans working as police officers and in the prosecutor’s office.

Clayton police cars were inching along, trailing protesters as they snaked through the streets that surround the county police headquarters and courthouse. March leaders demanded that authorities release the name of the Ferguson officer, fire and charge him.

County police officials said Tuesday they had not fired rubber bullets Monday, as some protesters had claimed. Neither did assisting St. Louis officers, a spokeswoman said. Five people were treated for minor injuries at DePaul Health Center after the demonstrations Monday evening, a spokeswoman said.

Also Tuesday, McCulloch announced that nine people were charged with felony burglary, accused of looting Sunday night at three Ferguson stores along West Florissant — the Princess Beauty Supply, the Footlocker and the Nu Fashion Beauty Supply.

Charged were Beonca McGrath, 19, of the 4400 block of Jennings Station Road in Pine Lawn; Michael L. Davis, 27,of the 8300 block of Wabash Avenue in Berkeley; Robert Lee Stephenson, 28, of the 9500 block of Guthrie Avenue in Woodson Terrace; Trey T. Brewer, 18, of Dallas; Nikko Fiertag, 23, of the 9300 block of Clarion Drive in Ferguson; Andrew Henry, 30, of the 4100 block of Appleberry Lane in Berkeley; Steven C. Martin, 27, of the 8800 block of Maya Lane in Ferguson; Stephon D. Thompson, 19, of 5700 block of Goodfellow Boulevard in St. Louis; and DeMarco Harris, 38, of the 1200 block of Gimblin Avenue in St. Louis.

McGrath and Harris also were charged with misdemeanor possession of a stolen hair weave, and Fiertag was charged with misdemeanor stealing of a pair of sneakers.

The felony charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years.

BUSINESSES REOPEN

Repairs continued along the looted district, and some businesses in Ferguson reopened Tuesday, including both locations that had been damaged and those that were closed as precaution. Zisser Tire & Auto, which was ransacked, reopened. So did a Taco Bell nearby and other restaurants in Ferguson. But others, including Shoe Carnival and AutoZone, remained closed.

Looting occurred Sunday night along West Florissant and at some stores to the north near Interstate 270, including the Walmart. Fear of fast-traveling replays caused some stores in Brentwood to close early Monday evening.

Ferguson City Hall was closed Tuesday morning due to “safety concerns,” but classes began in the Jennings School District, just east of Ferguson. The Jennings district had canceled classes on Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred private aircraft, including news helicopters, from the airspace over Ferguson for the next week. Commercial aircraft are exempt. The county police department made the request.

Shortly before midnight Monday, a group of 30 to 40 people in a caravan of vehicles attacked and looted a Shoe Carnival store near Gravois Avenue in St. Louis, far from Ferguson, St. Louis police said. Covering their faces with shirts, they smashed windows and stole shoes and other merchandise.

The group also tried to break into a nearby Radio Shack also in Gravois Plaza, in the 3500 block of Bamberger Avenue. An unarmed security guard saw the attacks and called police.

A police spokesman said it wasn’t known whether the attack was related to Ferguson, but called the tactics of mass burglary unusual. Mayor Francis Slay said city police were “closely watching incidents” for any connections.

Spokesmen at several area gun shops said sales had jumped, and they attributed the change to the violence in Ferguson.

At Metro Shooting Supplies in Bridgeton, “sales have been absolutely amazing for three days,” said general manager John Stephenson.

Al Rothweiler, an owner of Mid America Arms at 8205 Gravois Road in South County, said sales were up about 50 percent. “The things that have gone on have made people act,” Rothweiler said, although he added, “I don’t like selling on fear.”

Koran Addo, Tim Barker, Kim Bell, Jesse Bogan, Nancy Cambria, Joel Currier, Stephen Deere, Lilly Fowler, Ian Froeb, Jim Gallagher, Steve Giegerich, Valerie Schremp Hahn, Joe Holleman, Jeremy Kohler, Ken Leiser, Samantha Liss, Chuck Raasch and Michael Sorkin, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.


•••

NAACP says new witness to shooting saw no struggle in police car

The president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP says a second person has come forward to the civil rights group with an eyewitness account of the encounter that led to a Ferguson police officer fatally shooting unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday.

The first was a young man named Dorian Johnson, who has told several media outlets that the officer pulled up to him and Brown and grabbed Brown by the throat.

The second has not previously talked with reporters and is not releasing his or her name, said St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt.

The witness “did not see Michael Brown struggling with the police officer inside his car at any point,” Pruitt said earlier today. “They did witness the incident from the time it started from the time of the initial stop by the police car.”

Pruitt said he set up an interview for the second witness with the FBI. Asked whether Johnson has also been interviewed by the FBI, Pruitt said he could not immediately say.

- Jeremy Kohler

•••

Memorial fund created for Michael Brown

Attorneys for the Michael Brown family have established the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund. Supporters can go to or mail contributions to any Fifth Third Bank.

- Lilly Fowler  

Tim O'Neil is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Contact him at 314-340-8132 or toneil@post-dispatch.com

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