Ferguson police shot a man on Sunday after he allegedly fired on plainclothes officers in the town marking the one-year anniversary of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown’s fatal shooting. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the attack on the officers and other violence that occurred during what was supposed to be peaceful weekend commemorations in Ferguson, Missouri. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar reported that the man was in critical condition after being shot in Ferguson, Missouri. Belmar said that while uniformed officers were deployed to monitor businesses following protests and reports of looting, four plainclothes officers were tracking an individual they suspected was armed.
The man opened fire on the officers, who were in an unmarked car, according to Belmar. The gunfire struck the police vehicle several times. The officers returned fire and pursued the man on foot. The suspect — who had a stolen 9mm gun — again opened fire and the officers fired back, Belmar said. Belmar added that the police shooting took place after two separate groups in the vicinity had traded a “remarkable” amount of gunfire — between 40 and 50 shots.
Prosecutors have charged the suspect with four counts of first-degree assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action and one count of discharging a firearm at a motor vehicle, St. Louis County Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian Schellman said. Harris is being held on $250,000 bond. A day of peaceful vigils to mark the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting death turned ugly late Sunday when protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers.
The anniversary of Brown’s death by a white Ferguson police officer began peacefully on Sunday. Vigils honored him throughout the day. Attendees observed 4½ minutes of silence to signify the 4½ hours Brown’s body lay on the street after the unarmed black teen was shot last year. Some gunfire rang out as reporters were talking to Ferguson’s acting police chief, Andre Anderson. A startled Anderson continued speaking with a steady burst of gunfire in the background. Crowds scattered. Detectives in an unmarked SUV turned on its emergency lights and pursued the suspect, only to be shot at, according to Belmar. The bullets hit the vehicle’s hood and windshield several times, Belmar said.
As the detectives got out of the car, the suspect allegedly turned around and fired again. Then he ran toward a fenced area, where he continued firing — until officers struck him multiple times, Belmar said. The four plainclothes officers involved in the shooting have between six to 12 years of experience, he said. They have been placed on administrative leave. Objects were thrown at police as well as some businesses being damaged, according to the St. Louis County Police Department. Three St. Louis County police officers were injured: One was struck in the face by a brick, while two others were pepper-sprayed.
Brown’s killing by Officer Darren Wilson sparked outrage and protests nationwide against what some described as racial bias by the police. A grand jury didn’t indict Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department also declined to bring criminal charges, but the feds did issue a report that found the Ferguson Police Department and the city’s municipal court had engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force and jail sentences.
Wilson retired from the Ferguson Police Department. But protesters — many of whom are skeptical of the local and federal inquiries into the case — point to examples of police misconduct exposed in the wake of Brown’s death. The case also led to new policing strategies, including the introduction of police body cameras. Brown’s family filed a civil lawsuit in April against Wilson, the city of Ferguson and its former police Chief Thomas Jackson. The suit did not specify how much money the family is seeking, but it includes at least $75,000 for compensatory damages, such as for psychological treatment.