Tensions Simmer After Missouri Curfew Imposed

FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) -
Police in riot gear prepare to take up positions as people protest the police shooting death of Michael Brown a week ago in Ferguson, Mo.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Police in riot gear prepare to take up positions as people protest the police shooting death of Michael Brown a week ago in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A law-enforcement officer watches Sunday, as tear gas is fired to disperse a crowd protesting the shooting of teenager Michael Brown last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A law-enforcement officer watches Sunday, as tear gas is fired to disperse a crowd protesting the shooting of teenager Michael Brown last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal autopsy of a teenager shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, seeking to assure the family and community there will be a thorough investigation into a death that has sparked days of racially charged protests.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The police department in the St. Louis suburb has come under strong criticism for both the death of an unarmed man and its handling of the aftermath.

Seven protesters were arrested early on Sunday after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon imposed an overnight curfew aimed at quelling protests and looting. Police used canisters of smoke and later teargas to disperse the crowd, a Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman said.

Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, entrusted by the governor with restoring order, told hundreds of people gathered at a local church for a rally that he was committed to protecting their right to protest.

“I’m sorry,” Johnson, who is black, told Brown’s family during remarks that prompted repeated standing ovations. “My heart is heavy.”

The rally was led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

Holder called for the federal autopsy, in addition to one being conducted by state medical examiners, “due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said.

Imposing Curfew

The early morning clash occurred when demonstrators remained in the streets after the curfew took effect at midnight. The seven people arrested had failed to disperse, police said.

A person was shot and critically wounded during the night. It was not clear why, and the shooter was still at large, police said. Johnson said police were unable to identify the victim, who he said was not shot by police.

Johnson also said someone had shot at a passing police car but was not apprehended.

The smoke and teargas canisters largely dispersed the crowd.

“It was the minimum amount of force that we could have used to get them moving,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Al Nothum. Nixon said that in spite of the clashes, the curfew was a success and the community deserved credit. Speaking on CNN’s news show “State of the Union,” the governor said he did not know how long the curfew would be in place.

He criticized the Ferguson police department for its decision on Friday to release a video that allegedly showed Brown taking part in a convenience store robbery shortly before the shooting. Police have said the officer who shot Brown had no idea he was a robbery suspect.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson defended the release of the surveillance video, over the objections of the U.S. Justice Department. Jackson said he was complying with the news media’s requests for information in the case.

The decision to release the video while not giving details of the shooting only fueled outrage. The clashes in Ferguson have pitted mostly black protesters against mostly white police in a residential and retail district.

Obama Getting Regular Briefings

President Barack Obama has been getting regular briefings while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, including from senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Jarrett spoke with Nixon on Saturday to get an update and offer the administration’s continued coordination and support with state and local officials, a White House spokesman said. Jarrett had also been in touch with civil rights leaders, including Sharpton and NAACP President Cornell Brooks over the last few days, he said.