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FBI probes death of unarmed black teen killed by Missouri police

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-12

The FBI opened a probe into the case of a black teenager from suburban St. Louis who was shot dead by police over the weekend, sparking riots and looting in the Missouri city.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death in the mostly black suburb of Ferguson on Saturday afternoon after what police said was a struggle with a gun in a police car.

A witness in the case told local media that Brown had raised his arms to police to show that he was unarmed before being killed.

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.

The FBI opened a concurrent federal inquiry into the case intended to supplement the main investigation by St. Louis County police, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday.

Brown’s mother urged for non-violence after riots and widespread looting erupted following his death.

Demonstrations turned violent on Sunday night, with crowds breaking the windows of cars and stores, setting a building on fire and looting shops. At least two dozen businesses were damaged, 32 people were arrested, and two police officers were injured.

Officer not identified

The officer who shot Brown, who has not been identified, is a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, police said. The officer’s race has not been disclosed.

Witness Dorian Johnson told television station KMOV that he and Brown had been walking when an officer confronted them, drew a weapon and shot. Johnson said that Brown put his hands in the air and started to get down, but the officer kept shooting.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said there was plenty of physical evidence and eyewitness testimony. “I really believe we can get to the truth of what happened here,” he said.

Brown’s mother said her son had been planning to study heating and air conditioning repair at a technical college.

Brown’s mother told reporters that her first-born son had just graduated and was on his way to college. She said his first day back at school would have been on Monday.

“We can’t even celebrate,” Lesley McSpadden said, speaking through tears at a news conference.

Michael Brown, Sr., the teen’s father, told reporters his son was “silly” and “could make you laugh”. “We need justice for our son,” he said.

The family has hired Benjamin Crump, the attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot to death by a community watch volunteer in 2012.

‘History of racial injustice’

Three of the Ferguson Police Department’s 53 members are black, Jackson said. About two-thirds of Ferguson’s population of about 21,000 are black, according to US Census figures. Ferguson’s median household income is $37,517, less than the Missouri average of $47,333.

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.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-08-12

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