Police officers shot and killed a man brandishing a knife in north St. Louis, Mo., on Monday, police said, just eight kilometres from Ferguson where protests have raged since the deadly police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson confirmed the suspect was dead, and said an investigation is ongoing. No police officers were injured, he said.
Police Capt. Ed Kuntz said the suspect was a 23-year-old black man, but did not release his identity.
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Dotson said officers gave the apparently agitated 23-year-old man verbal commands to drop the knife, but he did not listen. Dotson said the suspect yelled “kill me now” and approached the officers before he was shot.
Local television station KSDK said the shooting took place near Riverview Blvd. and McLaran Ave. Photos from the scene showed a number of police officers standing guard around a cordoned-off area. Kuntz said police were responding to a report of a robbery at a nearby convenience store.
A large crowd gathered at the scene, many shouting "hands up, don't shoot!" — a chant that has become commonplace at the Michael Brown protests. After about two hours, the crowds dispersed.
Dotson, who attended the scene to speak with demonstrators, said the officers involved in the shooting are now on administrative duty, as per department policy.
Ferguson officials call for calm
Meanwhile, Ferguson's leaders urged residents to stay home after dark to "allow peace to settle in" and pledged to reconnect with the predominantly black community in the St. Louis suburb.
According to a statement from the city, officials have been exploring how to increase the number of African-American applicants to the law enforcement academy and raise funds for cameras that would be attached to patrol car dashboards and officers' vests.
"We plan to learn from this tragedy," the leaders said in the statement Tuesday.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown's family, said Michael Brown's funeral and memorial service would be Monday, though the time and location haven't been finalized.
31 arrested on Monday night
Ferguson was the site of another round of clashes between police and protesters late Monday and into Tuesday.
Protesters filled the streets of Ferguson and officers trying to enforce tighter restrictions at times used bullhorns to order them to disperse. Police fired tear gas and flash grenades, and deployed noisemakers and armoured vehicles to push demonstrators back.
Molotov cocktails and bottles were thrown from the crowd and some officers came under heavy gunfire, said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is in charge of security in Ferguson. The National Guard arrived again the St. Louis suburb but kept its distance.
At least two people were shot and 31 were arrested, he said. Four officers were injured by rocks or bottles. A photographer and two German reporters were arrested and later released.
The latest clashes came after a day in which a pathologist hired by the family of Michael Brown's family said the 18-year-old suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned. But the pathologist said the team that examined Brown cannot be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted until they have more information.
Brown's Aug. 9 slaying by a white officer angered many in Ferguson, a predominantly black community where the police force is mostly white.
'In too many communities, too many young men of colour are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.' - U.S. President Barack Obama
Addressing the crisis Monday, President Barack Obama said the mistrust between police and local residents was endemic in many of America's communities and overcoming it would require Americans to "listen and not just shout."
He tried to strike a balanced tone, calling for respect for police but also understanding of the plight of young black men who feel unjustly targeted by law enforcement.
"In too many communities, too many young men of colour are left behind and seen only as objects of fear," Obama said at the White House, while adding that crimes must be prosecuted and police honoured for doing their jobs.
Obama said the vast majority of protesters in Ferguson were peaceful but a small minority was undermining justice. He said he spoke to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon about his deployment of the National Guard in Ferguson and urged the governor to ensure the military reserve force was used in a limited way.
Unusually swift response
The president said Attorney General Eric Holder would arrive Wednesday in Ferguson to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown's death.
The Justice Department has mounted an unusually swift and aggressive response to Brown's death, from the independent autopsy to dozens of FBI agents combing Ferguson for witnesses to the shooting.
Demonstrators no longer faced a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew that the governor had imposed but police told protesters that they could not assemble in a single spot and had to keep moving. After the streets had been mostly cleared, authorities ordered reporters to leave as well, citing the risk from gunfire that had been reported.
A photographer for Getty Images was arrested while covering the demonstrations and later released. Two German reporters were arrested and detained for three hours. Conservative German daily Die Welt said correspondent Ansgar Graw and reporter Frank Herrmann, who writes for German regional papers, were arrested after allegedly failing to follow police instructions to vacate an empty street. They said they followed police orders.
Johnson said members of the media had to be asked repeatedly to return to the sidewalks and that it was a matter of safety. He said in some cases it was not immediately clear who was a reporter but that once it was established, police acted properly.
Grand jury starts Wednesday
Witnesses have said Brown's hands were above his head when he was repeatedly shot by the officer.
The independent autopsy determined that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, the family's lawyers and hired pathologists said.
The St. Louis County medical examiner's autopsy found that Brown was shot six to eight times in the head and chest, office administrator Suzanne McCune said Monday. But she declined to comment further, saying the full findings were not expected for about two weeks.
A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown's death, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County's prosecuting attorney.
Holder, the attorney general, said a third and final autopsy was performed Monday for the Justice Department by one of the military's most experienced medical examiners.