Guide to developments in Missouri police shooting

August 16, 2014 - 4:04 AM
Police Shooting Missouri

Protesters hold up signs, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in front of a convenience store that was looted and burned following the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown by police nearly a week ago in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — After an unarmed black teenager was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, the city north of downtown St. Louis erupted into violent protests. Here's a look at the key elements of the shooting and the unrest that followed:

THE LATEST: Police and about 200 protesters clashed again late Friday after another tense day in the St. Louis suburb that included authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and releasing documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a "strong-arm" robbery shortly before he was killed.

The officer was identified as Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer who has patrolled suburban St. Louis for six years and has no previous complaints filed against him.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Wilson did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Michael Brown and a companion "because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."

THE SHOOTING: Police have said that one of the teens pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer's weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.

Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has described a different story. He has told reporters that the officer ordered them out of the street, then tried to open his door so close to the men that it "ricocheted" back, apparently upsetting the officer. Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend's neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. Johnson and another witness both say Brown had his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.

THE UNREST: Since the shooting, crowds have gathered nightly to protest Brown's death. For four nights, the protests threatened to tear the city apart, with people looting stores, damaging buildings and vandalizing property. Officers from multiple departments in riot gear and military equipment clashed with protesters, who chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot." Police used tear gas and smoke bombs, and some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that the state would take over supervising security, with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson — a Ferguson native who is black — leading the effort.

Only hours after the Missouri Highway Patrol took control in Ferguson, the protests changed dramatically, taking on a much lighter, even festive atmosphere. Johnson marched with protesters and several people stopped to his hand or hug him and other officers.

Friday night was similar. The scene was eclectic. The Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters as they marched to the site where Brown was killed. A man on a bullhorn called for a revolution. A young man waved a Bible while citing scripture. Some people took selfies in front of a convenience store that had been burned by looters Sunday. Boys tossed a football, and horns and loud music blared.

THE POLICE TACTICS: The police response drew heavy criticism from around the nation. Critics say it's part of a law-enforcement trend toward more aggressive weapons and tactics.

The American Civil Liberties Union in June released a report stating that police were overwhelmingly relying on SWAT raids — involving the use of assault rifles, battering rams and flash-bang grenades — for routine work such as searching for small amounts of drugs and serving warrants.

THE INVESTIGATION: At the request of Ferguson police, Brown's death is being investigated by St. Louis County police. The FBI has also opened an investigation into possible civil rights violations.