At least 50 were arrested in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, according to police and local media, after a second night of protests over the death of an unarmed African-American teenager shot to death by a police officer.
Authorities have been vague about exactly what led the officer, who has not been named, to shoot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday afternoon, except to say it happened after what police said was a struggle in a police car.
Demonstrations demanding the arrest and conviction of the police officer turned violent on Monday night with protesters clashing with security forces. Fire trucks, ambulances and tactical police units converged on the area.
Authorities have said the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Phillip Walker said he was on the porch of an apartment complex overlooking the scene when he heard a shot and saw a white officer with Brown on the street.
Brown “was giving up in the sense of raising his arms and being subdued,” Walker told The Associated Press on Monday. The officer “had his gun raised and started shooting the individual in the chest multiple times.” The officer then “stood over him and shot him” after the victim fell wounded.
Dorian Johnson offered a similar account when he told KMOV-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 the vehicle.
Johnson said the first time the officer fired, he and Brown got 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 weren’t causing harm to nobody,” Johnson said. “We had no weapons on us at all.”
Walker said that he did not see a scuffle or the circumstances that preceded the first gunshot.
The St. Louis County Police Department refused to discuss Johnson's remarks, citing the ongoing investigation.
Investigators have refused to publicly disclose the race of the officer. In Ferguson, a St. Louis County city of 21,000, nearly 70 percent of the population is African-American. Most of the communities in the area have gone from mostly white to mostly black in the last 40 years, according to Terry Jones, a 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.”
In other developments, the international activist group Anonymous hacked the City of Ferguson’s website on Sunday night, with officials telling KMOV that none of the city’s emails were working Monday morning. In a video released on Sunday night, the group said, “Not a week goes by that some young person – usually of minority ethnicity – is slaughtered by murderous police in the U.S.A,” and threatened to release personal information of any officers that abuse protesters.
Al Jazeera and wire services