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Missouri governor calls in National Guard after night of chaos; 1st autopsy of teen released

After a night of chaos in which police said they used tear gas to disperse crowds after some protesters fired guns and threw Molotov cocktails at police, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon early Monday signed an executive order directing National Guard troops to keep peace in Ferguson.

"Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk.  I join the people of Ferguson, and all Missourians, in strongly condemning this criminal activity," Nixon said in a statement on his official website.

 Police said they faced coordinated attacks on Sunday, including gunfire and Molotov cocktails, during protests, and defended their use of tear gas to try and quell the violence.

Hundreds of protesters fled to safety after authorities fired tear gas and canisters of smoke to disperse them hours ahead of a planned midnight curfew in the tense St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death by a police officer on Aug. 9.

"Molotov cocktails were thrown, there were shootings, looting, vandalism, and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous," Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told a late night news briefing.

The "coordinated acts" by a few in the crowd were "premeditated criminal acts designed ... to provoke a response," Johnson added.

He said the trouble began after police responded to the shooting of a civilian at around 8.25 p.m., which Johnson said.

Also Sunday night, the New York Times reported that a private autopsy showed that Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times by police.

Citing Dr. Michael M. Baden, former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, the newspaper reported that Brown was shot twice in the head, and that the bullets that hit him did not appear to have been fired from very close range.

The crowd of about 400 appeared to be marching peacefully Sunday but a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol said "aggressors" had advanced on a law enforcement command post.

Police drove into the protest area in armored vehicles and shot smoke canisters at watching media representatives during a protest that had until then appeared to be peaceful.

The St. Louis County police tweeted that Molotov cocktails were being thrown at police and that shots had been fired, urging people to leave the area.

The Los Angeles Times reported that police fired smoke canisters and tear gas at demonstrators and at cars stuck in traffic. Hundreds of people ran from the scene, covering their faces to block the tear gas.

A Ferguson native and journalism student who has been filming the demonstrations accused authorities of intimidation.

"This is once again a peaceful protest," said Etefia Unama, 20, who attends Loyola University in New Orleans. "They're trying to create an atmosphere of intimidation. This is martial law, a police state."

 "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!'

However, 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 Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Justin Wheetley said.

The actions took place hours before a midnight curfew imposed for the second night in the tense St. Louis suburb, site of ongoing protests as well as violence and looting since Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death on Aug. 9.

Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal autopsy of Brown's body, seeking to assure the family and community there will be a thorough investigation into a death that has sparked days of racially charged protests.

Brown was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson.

Police say Brown was asked by Wilson to move out of the road and onto a sidewalk and that Brown reached into a patrol car and struggled with Wilson for his service gun and was shot.

A friend of Brown's, Dorian Johnson, 22, and at least one other witness said Wilson reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and the teenager was trying to get away when shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender, but Wilson got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.


The police department in the St. Louis suburb has come under strong criticism for Brown's death and its handling of the aftermath. The clashes in Ferguson have pitted mostly black protesters against mostly white police in a residential and retail district.

The Highway Patrol captain charged with restoring order told hundreds of people gathered at a local church for a rally on Sunday that he was committed to protecting their right to protest.

"I'm sorry," Captain Ron Johnson, who is black, told Brown's family during remarks that prompted repeated standing ovations at the rally. "My heart is heavy."

The mood at the rally was somber, as a choir sang gospel music at Greater Grace Church, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton asked participants to join hands and prepare themselves for difficult days ahead as the results of three autopsies of Brown's body become public, and his funeral is held.

"This is a defining moment in this country," Sharpton told the crowd. Brown's death "will change this town," he said.

In St. Louis on Sunday, about 125 people attended a rally in support of officer Darren Wilson, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said. Protesters held signs that read, "We love and support you Darren" and "Support our police. Pray for peace."

On Saturday, protesters were dispersed by police using canisters of smoke and later teargas after refusing to leave the area when the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew began. Seven protesters were arrested after failing to disperse.

The smoke and teargas were "the minimum amount of force that we could have used to get them moving," said Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Al Nothum.

Overnight Saturday, one person was shot and critically wounded. The circumstances were not clear, 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.


Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, criticized the Ferguson police department for releasing a video on Friday purporting to show 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.

"I think it had an incendiary effect," Nixon said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Police "clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting," he added.

At Sunday's rally at the church, some participants referred to the theft of a box of cigars as shoplifting; police had initially called it a strong-arm robbery.

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.

 Reuters, Los Angeles Times



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