By Carey Gillam
FERGUSON MO. (Reuters) – Gunshots rang out and police fired tear gas at rock-throwing rioters late on Monday in a second night of violence over the death of a black teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
Michael Brown, 18, was killed in the largely black St. Louis suburb on Saturday afternoon after what officers said was a struggle with a gun in a police car. The FBI opened an investigation into the racially charged case.
Brown’s family has hired an attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager whose fatal shooting by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012 triggered nationwide protests.
“He just graduated and was on his way to college,” said Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, speaking through tears at a news conference on Monday, which would have been her first-born son’s first day at school.
She called for calm, but demonstrations demanding the arrest and conviction of the police officer turned violent. Fire trucks, ambulances and more officers converged on the area in a chaotic scene. One officer in riot gear stood behind a squad car in a standoff with a group of young demonstrators.
Crowds, driven out of one area by tear gas gathered outside a police station chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot”.
“We aren’t going to let this one go,” said 18-year-old Dreya Harris, of St. Louis. “People feel like in the Trayvon Martin case that there was no justice.”
Other demonstrators had photographs that appeared to show Brown’s body lying on the street and shot videos of the confrontations with their mobile phones.
“They are throwing bottles, coins, rocks at the police … That’s why the tear gas has been deployed,” St. Louis County Police Department spokesman Brian Schellman said.
More than 50 people have been arrested by early Tuesday morning, said police and local media.
On Sunday night, crowds broke car and shop windows, set fire to one building and looted shops. At least two dozen businesses were damaged, 32 people were arrested, and two police officers were injured, officials said.
“WE NEED JUSTICE”
The FBI inquiry, opened on Monday, would supplement the main investigation by St. Louis County police, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
The officer involved in the shooting, who was not identified, is a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, police said. The officer’s race has not been disclosed.
It was not immediately clear from police why Brown was in the police car. At least one shot was fired during the struggle, and then the officer fired more shots before leaving the car, police said.
A witness in the case told local media Brown had raised his arms to police to show he was unarmed before being killed.
Brown’s mother said her son had been planning to study heating and air conditioning repair at a technical college.
“We need justice for our son,” said Michael Brown Sr., the teen’s father, who told reporters his son was “silly” and “could make you laugh.”
Three of the Ferguson Police Department’s 53 members are black, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said. About two-thirds of Ferguson’s 21,000-strong population are black, according to U.S. Census figures.
Most of the communities around Ferguson have gone from white to mostly black in the last 40 years, said Terry Jones, political science professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“There’s a long history of racial injustice,” said Jones. “Slowly and not so surely, the St. Louis metropolitan area has been trying to figure out a way forward. As the Michael Brown shooting indicates, there are often setbacks.”
(Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Andrew Heavens)