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UPDATED at 7:30 a.m. Friday with details on arrests, damage

ST. LOUIS • At least one police officer was injured when violence erupted after prayer vigils Thursday night for a teen shot and killed by a police officer in the Shaw neighborhood.

Protesters blocked traffic, broke windows of at least one home and a business and burned American flags in a long night of unrest in the Shaw neighborhood and along South Grand Boulevard.

In an update Friday morning, police said one officer was hurt after being hit in the arm by a brick. Two police cars were damaged by protesters. Police arrested eight people at the protests overnight Thursday and into early Friday. Five of those people were arrested for unlawful assembly, two for property damage and one for marijuana possession.

Dispatchers reported that an officer was in need of aid around 10:15 p.m. Dozens of police rushed to the scene, donned riot gear and formed a skirmish line with billy clubs and cans of pepper spray. They ordered protesters to leave as a police helicopter circled above the crowd of about 100.

The injured officer had fallen to the ground with a protester, and another officer maced the protester. The officer was seen leaving the area walking but holding out his arm and squinting.

Protesters broke a window at the Medicine Shoppe at Grand Boulevard and Hartford Street, took an American flag from the Beauvais Manor nursing home and threw at least one brick through the window of a home along Flora Avenue.

Police Chief Sam Dotson was at the protest scene late Thursday and into early Friday. Dotson said his officers were being respectful of the protesters' right to gather and make their voices heard, but he said they in turn needed to be respectful of the businesses on South Grand and nearby residents.

He said the demonstrators had broken an agreement to disperse if police let an isolated group join the larger one.

"I'm very disappointed," Dotson said. "We acted in good faith. It just shows how unorganized the protest leadership is."

About 1 a.m., an armored police vehicle arrived at Grand and Arsenal Street, where protesters had congregated. Police ordered demonstrators to leave or face arrest. Several protesters were hit with pepper spray. A police SUV was hit by a brick or rock.

Within 15 minutes, most of the protesters had left the scene. A few of them gathered on the patio at MoKaBe's Coffeehouse, on Arsenal just west of Grand.

VIGILS AT SHOOTING SCENE, CHURCH

The night began with prayer vigils, one at the scene of a fatal police shooting and another at a nearby church.

About 6 p.m., a group of about 75 people gathered along with pastors from Shaw neighborhood churches to hold a prayer service for peace.

The moment unfolded in front of the Shaw Market, a few feet from where police say VonDerrit Myers Jr. fired at a St. Louis police officer, who returned fire and fatally shot him.

The pastors led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace,” but changed some of the words to include: “Don’t Shoot.”

Myers’ uncle Jackie Williams told the crowd he thought his nephew would live to be “old and gray.”

“They washed away his blood, but they can never wash away what happened here,” Williams told the crowd.

Some of those who gathered for the service said they did not believe the police version of the events that led to Myers’ killing.

About a half-hour after the first vigil, about 50 people gathered at the Compton Heights Christian Church on South Grand Boulevard. The Rev. Jacquelyn Foster organized the event along with clergy and other neighborhood leaders.

“Let these moments be only the beginning of our listening,” Foster said. “We want to say so much but we need to listen.”

Among those who attended were Alderman Stephen Conway, city Director of Operations Eddie Roth and Lawrence Johnson, president of the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association.

Johnson said he spent all day at his computer responding to emails and crafting a statement.

“Common thread of people standing there is a sense of injustice,” he said. “The people emailing me just have a lot of questions. All day long it was people asking questions nobody has answers to.”

The Rev. Matt O’Toole of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church said, “Protect every person you have created. Blanket our streets with your mercy.”

The leaders prayed for everyone’s safety, for the Myers family and for God to help everyone channel their questions and anger toward positive change.

They concluded their service by singing the African-American spiritual “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

Valerie Schremp Hahn of the Post-Dispatch contributed information to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been edited to correct the spelling of VonDerrit Myers Jr.

Paul Hampel is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Valerie Schremp Hahn is a features writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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