Rioting and looting erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, late on Sunday as protests over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer turned violent, law enforcement officials and media reports said.
Crowds broke the windows of cars and stores following a day of demonstrations over the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old shot dead on Saturday by a Ferguson police officer.
"We are currently experiencing a riot," a Ferguson police dispatcher said.
About 150 officers in riot gear from throughout St. Louis County, along with canine units, were sent to the area, a dispatcher for the St. Louis County Police Department said.
There was no immediate word on injuries.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported several businesses were looted, demonstrators blocked traffic and a civilian was severely beaten.
Sunday's protests turned violent after dark, according to news station KMOV-TV, with rioters smashing the window of a store and damaging cars. The crowd broke the windows of a news truck, the station said.
A teenage girl told KMOV that a QuikTrip convenience store was being looted. Asked what looters were taking, she said, "Everything. They destroyed everything."
Earlier on Sunday, police said the shooting incident was started by a fight between the victim and an officer in a squad car that quickly escalated.
Police said Brown physically assaulted the officer from the Ferguson police, who then fired multiple shots at Brown after he left the car on Saturday. The officer, who was not identified, is a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told a news conference.
"It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer's weapon," Belmar told reporters as voices from hundreds of demonstrators shouting outside the building could be heard.
According to Belmar, Brown was walking with a friend in the middle of the street when an officer attempted to exit his vehicle, the Los Angeles Times reported. Police said Brown pushed the officer back into the police car.
Brown then entered the officer’s vehicle and a struggle ensued over the officer’s weapon, according to police. During the altercation a shot was fired inside the car.
The officer and Brown then exited the vehicle and at that point the fatal shooting occurred, Belmar said.
Witnesses have had different accounts.
Dorin Johnson, a friend of the victim, told Fox 2 that he was walking in the street with Brown when the police squad car pulled up. The officer said to "Get the eff onto the sidewalk," he recounted.
"It was not but a minute from our destination and we would be off the street," Johnson said.
Johnson said the officer didn't get out of his police car, but "reach[ed] his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around the neck."
"I witnessed the police chase after the guy, full force," Piaget Crenshaw said. "He ran for his life. They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died."
A crowd of some 200 people gathered at the site of the shooting on Saturday, some of them shouting "kill the police" and yelling profanities, a county police spokesman said.
"Emotions were running very high," Belmar said.
St. Louis County police said Brown was unarmed and they would turn over investigation findings of what happened in Ferguson, northwest of St. Louis, to local prosecutors.
Brown's mother told local TV broadcaster KSDK that her son was a good child getting ready to go to college and was visiting his grandmother when the incident took place.
"He didn't bother nobody," she said. "They told me how many times my son was shot - eight," she added, and then directed her comments at police.
"You not God. You not decide you are going to take somebody from her," she said in an interview with KSDK.
The St Louis County branch of the civil rights group NAACP has said it wants the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the case, with many in the community telling media that race played a factor in the shooting.
The race of the officer was not released.
Reuters, Los Angeles TimesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun