UK & World News

  • 19 August 2014, 12:17

Dozens Held Amid 'Heavy Gunfire' In Missouri

Thirty one protesters have been arrested after police came under "heavy gunfire" in the latest flare-up of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as initially peaceful protests descended once again into chaos after nightfall.

The St Louis town has been beset by unrest since the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teenager who was killed by a white policeman.

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a news conference: "Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack."

He said bottles and Molotov cocktails were thrown from the crowd and two guns were confiscated from protesters. At least two people were shot.

The death of Mr Brown, who was unarmed, has sparked daily protests and nightly clashes with police.

Monday night's protests were the first since Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard to try and restore order to Ferguson, a town of about 21,000 people that is overwhelmingly African-American.

But the National Guard appeared to keep their distance and remained at a police command centre.

Instead, most streets were patrolled by officers in riot gear, supported by an armoured SWAT vehicle and a helicopter.

They repeatedly ordered the crowd to disperse.

Demonstrators no longer faced a midnight-to-5am curfew, but police told protesters that they could not assemble in a single spot and had to keep moving. 

Three journalists - a photographer for the Getty photo agency and two German reporters - were briefly detained and later released.

Reports said a 90-year-old woman, who fled Nazi Germany in her youth to eventually emigrate to the US, was also detained for failing to disperse.

A crowd that gathered near where Mr Brown was killed was smaller than the one that clashed with officers on Sunday.

The teenager was shot in broad daylight on a residential street by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old police officer who had been on the force for six years.

Pathologists hired by Mr Brown's family revealed he had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

Different versions of the shooting have emerged, with police sources saying there was a scuffle during which Mr Brown tried to seize the policeman's weapon. Police say the officer was injured.

Witnesses have said the teenager had his hands up and was not resisting when he was shot.

The Washington Post said traces of marijuana were found in his system.

A total of three autopsies have been requested - by local authorities, the family and the Justice Department.

Officials have said a grand jury could hear evidence in the case as early as Wednesday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the vast majority of protesters in Ferguson were peaceful, but warned that a small minority was undermining justice.

He has said there was no excuse for police to use "excessive force" and urged a "limited" use of the National Guard.

The president has also deployed Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected in the area on Wednesday for talks with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Mr Brown's death.