Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Second night of curfew in Ferguson, governor calls out National Guard

Tear gas used to clear streets; preliminary autopsy shows Michael Brown shot at least six times; schools closed Monday

Police used tear gas to clear protesters off the streets late Sunday, a week after demonstrations against the fatal police shooting of a black Missouri teenager, Michael Brown, first filled this St. Louis suburb with angry crowds.

The latest confrontation, which prompted the governor to call out the National Guard and the Ferguson-Florissant School District to close schools on Monday, unfolded hours after Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on Brown.

Also on Sunday, a preliminary private autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to The New York Times.

As night fell in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police pushed them back by repeatedly firing tear gas, and the streets were empty well before the curfew took effect at midnight.

Authorities said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.

"Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response," said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson.

At least two people were wounded in shootings, he said.

The "extraordinary circumstances" surrounding the death of 18-year-old Brown and a request by his family members prompted the Justice Department's decision to conduct a third autopsy, agency spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

The examination was to take place as soon as possible, he said.

The results of a state-performed autopsy would be taken into account along with the federal examination in the Justice Department investigation, Fallon said.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown's skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when the shot struck him — a fatal injury.

Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, and all the bullets were fired into his front, Baden said.

The Justice Department had already deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door to door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9.

In Ferguson, Sunday's clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Early on Monday, he ordered the National Guard to "help restore peace and order."

Officers in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.

Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the street near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and the crackle of gunfire could be heard from several blocks away.

Within two hours, most people had been cleared off West Florissant Avenue, one of the community's main thoroughfares. The streets remained quiet as the curfew began. It was to remain in effect until 5 a.m.

The crowd of about 400 appeared to be marching peacefully on Sunday, but a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol said "aggressors" were trying to infiltrate a law enforcement command post and that armored vehicles were deployed to ensure public safety.

"We ordered them back. We ordered them back again. After several attempts, we utilized the smoke to disperse these individuals," said Justin Wheetley of the highway patrol.

"The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked," said Anthony Ellis, 45. "It [the protest] was led by kids on bikes. Next you know, they're saying, 'Go home, go home!'" 

School officials said that because of continuing unrest in some areas of Ferguson, all schools in the district will be closed Monday "due to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity."

Officials plan to decide day by day whether to extend the curfew, first imposed Saturday night by Nixon in an effort to quell protests and looting, Wheetley said.

The first night of a state-imposed curfew in Ferguson ended early Sunday morning with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear and driving armored vehicles dispersed defiant protesters who refused to abandon rallies in the St. Louis suburb.

Later on Sunday, Nixon appeared to lay the blame of renewed violence over the weekend on local police, who on Friday released a police report and video footage linking Brown to an alleged robbery. But police have said the officer who shot Brown had no idea he was a robbery suspect.

Nixon slammed the decision to release the video. "I think it had an incendiary effect," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation," adding police "clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting."

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said Sunday that protesters violating the midnight curfew weren't the cause of escalated police action but that there were reports of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.

At a Sunday afternoon rally, the Rev. Al Sharpton said he wants Congress to stop programs that provide military-style weaponry to police departments

Though looting, vandalism and clashes with police have occurred during previous rallies, many protesters assert that out-of-town activists — not Ferguson residents — are to blame.

Rallies have been ongoing since Brown was shot and killed under questionable circumstances by six-year police veteran Darren Wilson, who is white.

The Ferguson Police Department waited six days before revealing Wilson’s identity, citing security concerns for the delay. Police also disclosed documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, however, said Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect in the robbery at the time of the shooting, and witnesses said Brown's hands were in the air when Wilson shot him. Police contend he had reached for Wilson's gun.

Brown’s family and supporters have railed against the robbery allegations as character assassination.

Read more Ferguson coverage

Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and mostly white police force of Ferguson. The subsequent clashes between protesters and police prompted Missouri's governor to put the Highway Patrol in charge of security.

Gov. Nixon also declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday after protests turned violent the night before. In announcing the curfew, Nixon said that though many protesters were making themselves heard peacefully, the state would not allow looters to endanger the community.

"I am committed to making sure the forces of peace and justice prevail," Nixon said during a news conference that was interrupted repeatedly by people objecting to the curfew and demanding that Wilson be charged with murder.

"We must first have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching," Nixon added.

It isn't clear how long the curfew will be in effect. While state law gives the governor broad powers during a declared state of emergency, Nixon hasn’t indicated that he plans to do anything more than impose the curfew and empower the state highway patrol to enforce it.

Many Ferguson residents have expressed disappointment with looters, saying their actions are not representative of the community. Residents have also participated in efforts to cleanup after vandals.

“I disagree with the looting and rioting out there,” Wonetta Thomas, a resident of Ferguson and Army veteran, said Saturday as she swept in the rain. “I know the rioters do not represent the protesters.”

Cynthia Bennet, who raised her kids in Ferguson and still lives there, added: “I think the way the city has been portrayed by the media is not how the city is. I think the community will rally for the right thing.”

Picking up on Bennet’s point, resident Damian Barsh asked: “There was just a prayer recited. Why wasn’t that recorded on the news? Why aren’t they recording people serving hot dogs? Why aren’t they recording people picking up trash?”

Meanwhile, Nixon said the U.S. Department of Justice is beefing up its civil-rights investigation into the shooting.

Capt. Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, said 40 FBI agents had started going door-to-door in the neighborhood on Saturday, talking to people who might have seen or heard information about the shooting.

Johnson said earlier Saturday that police would not enforce the curfew with tear gas and armored trucks but would communicate with protesters and give them ample opportunity to leave. Local officers faced strong criticism earlier in the week for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters and even some journalists.

But as the curfew deadline arrived early Sunday, remaining protesters refused to leave the area as officers spoke through a loudspeaker: "You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately."

As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: "We have the right to assemble peacefully."

Shortly after, police began firing canisters into the crowd. Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press they had also used tear gas canisters.

"Obviously, we're trying to give them every opportunity to comply with the curfew," Hotz said.

On Saturday, some Ferguson residents said it appeared that violent acts were being committed by people from outside the community.

"Who would burn down their own backyard?" asked Rebecca McCloud, a local who works with the Sonshine Baptist Church in St. Louis. "These people aren't from here. They came to burn down our city and leave."

Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, is a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him, police chief Jackson has said. The Ferguson Police Department has refused to say anything about Wilson's whereabouts.

Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it could be weeks before the investigation wraps up.

Meanwhile, a man was shot and critically wounded in the protest area overnight on Sunday,but not by police. Authorities said they were searching for the shooter. Someone also shot at a police car, officials said.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Ryan Schuessler contributed to this report. 

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