UPDATED at 1 p.m. with information from police.
FERGUSON • One of two Michael Brown memorials burned early Tuesday morning, though it's not clear how.
Memorial items arranged near a concrete post along the street where Brown was shot burned early Tuesday morning. A larger memorial in the middle of Canfield Drive, marking the spot where Brown died, is several feet away and was not damaged by fire.
For weeks after the shooting of Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, burning candles have been part of the memorials near the shooting site on Canfield Drive, but it was unclear if the fire at the roadside memorial was intentionally set or an accident. One photo showed an empty, overturned votive candle next to the burn site.
In a press release, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the cause of the fire is unknown and authorities are investigating.
Residents of the area gathered at the scene Tuesday morning. Many were upset, claiming the fire was intentionally set by someone in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday. One witness said the fire started sometime after 5 a.m., when he drove by and saw no problem, and 6 a.m., when he saw the memorial ablaze. Another said it started between 6:30 and 7 a.m.
David Whitt, 34, the leader of a group called the Canfield Watchmen, was among several who said they smelled gasoline.
"There was no way a candle did this," Whitt said. "That fire was burning too high and too hot."
Jackson said a police sergeant who arrived use a fire extinguisher on the blaze, but couldn't put it out. He alerted the fire department, who arrived to douse the fire.
He asked anyone with information about the fire, or with photos or videos of it starting, to contact police.
Some began rebuilding the memorial Tuesday morning with a blanket and a new collection of stuffed animals, T-shirts, flowers and one unlit votive candle next to the soot-stained pole.
At around 10:30 a.m., a crowd of about 75 people gathered around the rebuilt memorial and joined hands to pray. The prayer ended with the crowd raising their hands and shouting "We are Mike Brown," and "We're young, we're strong, we're marching all day long."