Michael Brown shooting: Family lawyer suggests 18-year-old was 'surrendering' when he was killed by police
Missouri Governor calls in National Guard in attempt to restore order amid growing demands for arrest of officer who shot dead unarmed black teen
Anxiety and anger were still combining in a toxic cocktail in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday night as demands for the arrest of a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teen 10 days ago grew louder and the authorities sought to end successive nights of violence by sending in soldiers of the National Guard.
The troops, borne by armoured vehicles and dressed in camouflage, were ordered into the town by the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon early on Monday after another round of violent clashes between police and protesters on Sunday night that erupted even before the start of a first midnight-to-dawn curfew. Schools were ordered closed as the unrest continued.
Residents remained on edge, uncertain if the presence of the National Guard would discourage demonstrators from once more venturing on to the battlefield that some of the town’s streets have become or, instead, compound distrust and a widely held sense that the grievances of a community deeply distressed about the killing of one of their own has been met with a disproportionate, even militarised, response.
Read more: Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
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All the while, another nervous shock was sent through the community with the release of a privately conducted autopsy on the victim, 18‑year-old Michael Brown, which showed that he had been shot six times and seemed to offer some corroboration of witness statements that he may have been trying to surrender at the time.
At a packed press conference, a lawyer for the Brown family, Benjamin Crump, said that Mr Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, had asked the main pathologist hired to conduct the autopsy two questions when she saw the results had her child suffered pain and: “What else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?” Earlier, Ms McSpadden, had appeared on ABC TV News making clear her view that the police officer involved, who has been identified as 26-year-old Darren Wilson, should be arrested.
18-yr old Michael Brown was shot and killed 10 days ago (AFP)
Asked how calm could be brought back to the town, she responded: “With justice... arresting this man and making him accountable for his action.” Mr Wilson, who has a clean record according to the police department, remained in hiding.
The St Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman did not respond to a query about why the officer had not been arrested. The department is running a parallel investigation to one by the US Department of Justice, which is evaluating the shooting for civil rights violations.
Late last week, Governor Nixon responded to outrage about the aggressive police response to the protests by shifting responsibility for keeping order in Ferguson away from the town’s own police department to the State Highway Patrol under the command of Captain Ron Johnson, a local man who is also African-American.
Video: Protests show militarization of police
But a brief easing of tensions was shattered on Friday when the Ferguson police issued a video showing Mr Brown engaged in an attempted convenience store robbery minutes before he was stopped and shot.
With nothing to say about the shooting being connected with the robbery – Officer Wilson was not aware of it when he encountered the victim – the release of the information looked like an attempt to smear the young man.
At the weekend, Governor Nixon said he agreed. “It had an incendiary effect,” he said. “When you release pictures and you clearly are attempting to besmirch the victim of a shooting... there are a lot of folks who are concerned about that.”
The situation in Ferguson appeared to be one of the crises, alongside events in Iraq, that had drawn President Barack Obama back to Washington, interrupting his Martha’s Vineyard holiday for two days. Aides said he was to confer with the Attorney General Eric Holder on the continuing unrest.
In a demonstration of his own concern, Mr Holder at the weekend ordered what will be a third autopsy on the body of Mr Brown by a federal medical examination.
Demonstrators face off with police after tear gas was fired at protesters. Two people were shot in the unrest (Reuters)
But the focus yesterday was on the preliminary results of the private autopsy carried out by a team that had been hired by the family and led by Dr Michael Baden, a former New York City Chief Medical Examiner and regular expert witness at high‑profile criminal trials. It found, most notably, that the sixth and presumably final – and fatal – bullet fired at the boy had entered the top of his head and exited in the vicinity of his right eye.
That, according to family lawyer Daryl Parks, suggested that he was killed at the moment he was already in a position of surrendering before the police officer.
“His head was in a downward position,” Mr Parks said. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested.”
Capt Johnson said that he had been obliged on Sunday night to take firm steps including the firing again of tear gas into the midst of protesters because of sporadic looting and acts of violence.
Sunday night’s unrest appeared to have been triggered in particular by the shootings of two people in the crowds.
“I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Mr Johnson said, insisting he had seen evidence of “co-ordinated acts” by a few in the crowd that were “premeditated criminal acts designed... to provoke a response”.
Amnesty International USA has sent a human rights delegation to Ferguson to observe police and protester activity. “The team will gather testimony, seek meetings with officials and offer support to the community.
The 12-person delegation also includes organisers who will train local activists on methods of non-violent protest,” Amnesty International said in a press release.
The release also said its US executive director, Steven W Hawkins, had written to the Ferguson Police Department last week “to express his deep concern over the shooting of Michael Brown and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets at a demonstration against his death”.
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