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Death threats, protests & tear gas in Missouri: Police still won’t say who killed teen

FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — Police fired tear gas at a crowd of protesters late Wednesday for another night, as they gathered to protest the deadly shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Officers then marched toward the protesters near a burned out a gas station, which has become the gathering point for demonstrations.

Another crowd gathered outside Ferguson’s police station holding up signs and chanting protests for a fifth day.

A Ferguson police officer shot and killed the African-American teenager on Saturday, and the public still does not know the name of the person who pulled the trigger.

Despite cries of a cover-up, there’s good reason for the silence, local officials say. Since the shooting Saturday, police have received death threats against the officer, and it has spread from there, Mayor James W. Knowles said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“Hackers have tried to find personal information and display it online on social media, asking people to target myself, council members, the police chief,” he said. “The county police chief’s own home was put on Instagram, and people (were) asked to go there and assault him.”

The threats and continued protests, including demonstrations Tuesday and Wednesday, highlight heightened tensions in the St. Louis suburb and nationally over the shooting of Brown, an 18-year-old Ferguson resident killed in what police say was a dangerous struggle and what witnesses say seemed a brazen act of aggression by the officer.

Ferguson’s police chief told CNN that the officer who shot Brown had been injured in the scuffle, and the Police Department issued a statement saying that “Ferguson mourns the loss of Michael Brown’s life” and that it had “heard the community’s cries for justice.”

At the same time, the department asked protesters to restrict their gatherings to daylight hours.

“Unfortunately, those who wish to co-opt peaceful protests and turn them into violent demonstrations have been able to do so over the past several days during the evening hours,” the department said.

Later, the police chief added: “We understand the anger; we understand that people want answers. We understand that we’ve got a problem, but we’re just asking people to be peaceful.”

A call for transparency

On Tuesday, the lawyer representing Brown’s family blasted the decision not to release the officer’s name, suggesting authorities were protecting one of their own rather than following standard procedures.

“That doesn’t give the community confidence. That doesn’t make it transparent,” attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters. “And remember, we’ve got a long way to go before this community starts to believe that the police are going to give them all the answers and not try to sweep it under the rug.”

Crump was one of the attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was killed in a 2012 altercation with Florida man George Zimmerman.

He said police should have released the officer’s name 72 hours after the shooting. If police are going to ask residents of Ferguson to obey the law, he said, “then it’s got to work both ways.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said he doesn’t yet know when investigators will release the officer’s name but said authorities aren’t skirting any laws.

“The prosecuting attorney and the St. Louis County police chief agree that this is the prudent step to take under the circumstances,” he said.

“We started getting death threats against him and his family, and although that’s not most of the people, we took these things seriously,” Jackson said.

Someone claiming to be part of the shadowy Internet organization Anonymous also posted a video to YouTube on Tuesday promising to hack city websites and release information on Ferguson police unless the identity of the officer involved was released.

‘Don’t shoot!’

The Ferguson-Florissant School District announced that it was pushing back the start of classes this year. School had been scheduled to resume Thursday.

“The decision has been made to cancel school on Thursday, August 14 and on Friday, August 15, in response to concerns expressed by many about continuing unrest in our community,” the district said in a statement.

“In order to allow additional time for the situation to stabilize and for all of our students and their families to resume normal routines, we will reschedule the first day of school for Monday, August 18.”

More protests over Brown’s death erupted Tuesday.

“Don’t shoot!” demonstrators said, holding up signs protesting Brown’s killing. “No justice, no peace!”

The crowds dispersed after some demonstrators threw bottles at police, who responded with tear gas. No injuries were reported.

The protest followed clashes with police and looting Sunday and Monday. Police have made 47 arrests after Brown’s shooting, KMOV reported.

He said, he said

What led up to Brown’s death Saturday is a point of major contention.

Witnesses say the African-American teen was unarmed and his hands were in the air when he was shot. Police have said Brown attacked the officer and tried to take his gun.

On Wednesday, Jackson told CNN that the officer had been hit and suffered swelling on the side of his face. He was taken to a hospital and released the same day, Jackson said.

Police had not before offered any indication that the officer had been injured in the reported struggle.

The officer, Jackson said, is shaken by what happened.

As federal civil rights investigators and the FBI carry out their own inquiry into the controversial case, tensions are running high in the town of 21,000, where there’s a history of distrust between the predominantly black community and the largely white police force.

“Race relations is a top priority right now and, as I said, I’m working with the Department of Justice to improve that,” Jackson told reporters Wednesday, adding that he has tried to increase the diversity of the department since he got there.

Only three of the city’s 53 officers are African-American.

Dorian Johnson, who said he saw the shooting, told CNN on Tuesday that the officer who opened fire is white.

‘Full, fair, complete and impartial investigation’

Alongside the federal investigation into any potential violation of the civil rights law, the St. Louis County Police Department and the county prosecutor’s office will conduct a parallel investigation into whether any state laws were broken.

“We are still in the information gathering part of the investigation,” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said Wednesday. “There is so much information out there — some of it good, some of it bad.”

He urged anyone with information about the shooting to step forward and promised to go wherever the investigation leads.

“We will do a full, fair, complete and impartial investigation into this. Nothing will be left untouched,” McCulloch said.

College-bound teen sought a better life

Brown was going to defy negative stereotypes, staying away from the street life that plagued many African-American young men by instead going to college, his mother said.

“People may do things and it becomes repetitive in a certain race, but we didn’t. We don’t live like that. Not our family,” his mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CNN.

“We feel like we can do anything and go anywhere. … Just because my son is a 6-foot-4-inch black male walking down a city street does not mean he fit the profile for anything other than just walking down the street.”

CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet wrote in Atlanta, and Tristan Smith reported from Ferguson. CNN’s Julian Cummings, Ben Brumfield, Michael Pearson, Don Lemon, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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1 Comment

  • Bob

    They aren’t protesting. They are looting, and taking advantage. They are basically doing what they do on a regular basis but without fear of being caught and being sneaky.