Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police 'come under heavy gunfire' as violence flares on streets again

Two shot and 31 arrested as Captain Ronald Johnson blames 'criminals throwing Molotov cocktails' for escalation of civil unrest

Ferguson, Missouri

A night that seemed set at first to be more peaceful than those that had come before it suddenly flared up once again into anger, chaos and confrontation on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the air sending protesters fleeing for cover and gasping for breath.

Now in its second week, the protests triggered by the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer, Darren Wilson, show no sign of abating even after attempts by officials to use multiple tactics to stop the violence. 

While Governor Jay Nixon had ordered in the National Guard on Monday he had also lifted a nighttime curfew in hopes of easing tensions.

Captain Ron Johnson, the State Trooper appointed by Governor Nixon to restore order to the community, spent the first part of the evening walking along the stretch of West Florissant Avenue, the strip that has been the main flashpoint of the nightly eruptions, talking with protesters about his hopes that the worst might be over. “In my gut, in my soul, I feel that tonight is going to be better,” he commented.

By the end of the night Capt Johnson said that two people had been shot, 31 protesters arrested and that police had come under 'heavy gunfire" during the course of the night.

"These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of law-breakers," he said. "It is criminals who throw Molotov cocktails, fire shots and endanger lives. These are not acts of protesters but acts of violence."

"Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack. Our officers came under heavy gunfire," he added.

Earlier, the atmosphere was edgy as a line of police officers in gas masks and riot gear had formed a line at one end of the protest area. Soon, a second phalanx of police, now backed up by armoured vehicles topped with machine gun nests had also gathered at the other end of the street. Sound cannons released ear-piercing tones to discourage assembly. Sandwiched in between were hundreds and demonstrators and journalists.

Video: Police fire tear gas at protesters

While some degree of calm appeared to be holding at one end with the help of several community organisers and church pastors mixing with the crowds and urging restraint, at the other end, just off the street where the teenager, Michael Brown, was killed last Saturday, a far angrier knot of demonstrators had gathered, taunting police, ripping out a street and ignoring orders to disperse.

With a far smaller group of reporters at the same junction as witnesses, the stand-off abruptly dissolved into fresh chaos.  First some of the protesters scattered, as if spooked by something, which later was said to have been gunfire. Moments later, the police began firing tear gas, while protesters began hurling objects back, ranging from water bottles to at least one Molotov cocktail. The gas in the area spread fast, sparing only the few wearing gas masks.

Later a police officer ordered a CNN broadcast crew - and soon all other remaining reporters - to clear what had been a media ‘safe’ area outside the McDonald's. “There has been a gunshot victim, please leave,” one officer shouted. Meanwhile, riot police weaved through the air pointing automatic weapons indiscriminately at protesters and reporters.

Seemingly not involved directly in the street confrontations were the National Guard troops, who held back mostly to protect the police command centre in a nearby shopping centre.

Capt. Ronald Johnson said police came under 'heavy gunfire' Capt. Ronald Johnson said police came under 'heavy gunfire'

Earlier, President Barack Obama had said during a White House press conference that he had urged Governor Nixon strictly to limit the involvement of the National Guard to avoid further inflaming community resentment.

President Obama, who said he had directed the Attorney General, Eric Holder, to visit Ferguson personally on Wednesday, urged all sides to work for calm. “While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” he said.  “It undermines, rather than advancing, justice.”

The fresh protests followed the release by lawyers for Mr Brown’s family of the preliminary results of a privately conducted autopsy of the victim suggesting he had been shot six times. The trajectory of one bullet, from the top of the head and out one eye, was seen by some to corroborate claims that the young man had been trying to surrender when hit by the fatal shot.  A wound to an arm may also fit with his having had his arms raised at the time, though the private pathologists said they could not say for certain.  Two more autopsies are pending from St Louis and also federal authorities.

The family meanwhile called for the arrest of the officer responsible for the shooting, who has been identified as 26-year-old Darren Wilson. The same call was echoed by many of those participating in the protests on Monday night.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?