FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The FBI opened an investigation Monday into the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teenager whose death stirred a night of unrest in a St. Louis suburb.
Many questions loomed over the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after an altercation with an officer in Ferguson.
It was unclear whether Brown or a man he was with was involved in the scuffle, and authorities were vague about what led an officer to open fire.
Dorian Johnson told WALB-TV that he and Brown were walking home from a convenience store when a police officer told them to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Johnson said they kept walking, which caused the officer to confront them from his car and again after getting out of his car.
Johnson said the officer fired, and he and Brown were scared and ran away.
“He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air, and he started to get down,” Johnson said. “But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
“We wasn’t causing harm to nobody,” Johnson told the television station. “We had no weapons on us at all.”
The race of the officer was not disclosed. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.
The St. Louis County Police Department refused to discuss Johnson’s remarks, citing the ongoing investigation. But Police Chief Jon Belmar previously said that an officer encountered Brown and another man outside a Ferguson apartment complex, and that one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car and they struggled.
The FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations arising from the shooting, said Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s St. Louis field office. She said the FBI would be investigating regardless of the public attention surrounding the matter.
Nearly three dozen people were arrested following a candlelight vigil Sunday night after crowds looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and taunted officers who tried to block access to parts of the city.
Deanel Trout, a 14-year resident of Ferguson, said he was convinced the troublemakers were largely from outside Ferguson and that they had used Brown’s death and the vigil as an opportunity to steal.
“Most came here for a peaceful protest, but it takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. … I can understand the anger and unrest, but I can’t understand the violence and looting,” Trout said.
St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said 32 people were arrested for various offenses, including assault, burglary and theft. Two officers suffered minor injuries, and there were no reports of civilians hurt.
Several businesses were looted, including a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People also took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer and carted rims away from a tire store.
Some climbed atop police cars as the officers with riot shields and batons stood stoically nearby, trying to restrict access to the most endangered areas.
A spokeswoman for St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said tear gas had been used.
Mayor James Knowles said a small group of people was “creating a huge mess.”
The unrest, he added, was “only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors.”
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told KSDK-TV that there’s no video footage of the shooting from the apartment complex or from any police cruiser dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras that the department recently bought but has not yet put to use.
The second person has not been arrested or charged, and it was not clear if he was armed, Jackson said. Blood samples were taken from Brown and the officer who shot him for toxicology tests, which can take weeks to complete.
Earlier Sunday, a few hundred protesters gathered outside Ferguson police headquarters. Some marched into an adjacent police building chanting “Don’t shoot me” while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase until the crowd eventually left. A similar protest that attracted about 250 people was held Monday morning.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said she did not understand why police did not subdue her son with a club or stun gun. She said the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.
“I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty,” she said, fighting back tears.
The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges.
Brown’s family planned to speak later Monday at a news conference with their attorney, Benjamin Crump, who also represented Martin’s family.
John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP, said the group was “outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement.”
Ferguson’s population of about 21,000 people is almost 70 percent black.
Associated Press Writer Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.