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‘The whole situation is not good at this point,’ said Ferguson Police Chief

Protests in Ferguson, MO - August 13, 2014FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — Ferguson, Missouri, is a “powder keg,” the city’s police chief said Thursday, ahead of yet more protests expected after the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown.

“The whole situation is not good at this point,” Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters a day after clashes in which police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber pellets at protesters who he said had thrown firebombs at police and engaged in gunfire.

Jackson said police would talk about changing “not only the tactics but also the appearance” of law enforcement, who have been widely criticized for what critics say is a heavy-handed response to protests.

U.S. Justice Department officials have offered to assist local authorities to help them control crowds “without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Thursday. The offer has been accepted, he said.

Jackson said protesters also have to do their share by remaining peaceful.

“We need everybody to tone it down,” he said.

Lately the community of Ferguson, Missouri, has “looked a little bit more like a war zone, and it’s not acceptable,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday, at a press conference.  Gov. Nixon announced  that for now the Missouri Highway Patrol “will be directing the team that provides security.”

Ferguson has been the scene of protests since Saturday, when a police officer shot and killed Brown, who was unarmed. Police say he was trying to grab the officer’s gun. Witnesses say the 18-year-old was holding his hands in the air when he was fatally shot.

Protesters are angry that police have not released the officer’s name and worry that a cover-up is in effect. St. Louis County police and federal investigators are looking into Brown’s death. No charges have been filed.

While locals say race relations have long been troubled between the city’s mostly African-American population and the mostly white police force, anger spilled out after Brown’s death, resulting in protests, violence, looting and fires.

Missouri teen shooting

“We will not get the healing that we all need if the only response from the public is, ‘Y’all just be quiet,'”Gov. Nixon said.

“We’re all about making sure that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region, appropriately,” Gov.  Nixon said Thursday, describing a new approach for handling security.

President Barack Obama also spoke out.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” he said. “There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Their comments came after a night in which heavily armed police and protesters clashed, two reporters were briefly detained and an Al Jazeera America camera crew complained police shot tear gas at them.

After ordering protesters and reporters to turn off their cameras, police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters after some threw objects at them Wednesday, according to media accounts. CNN crews have not been ordered to turn off their cameras during the protests.

Twelve people were arrested, Jackson said. Two officers were injured, including one whose ankle was broken when a brick was thrown at him.

Witnesses dispute police account

Jackson has declined to comment on much of the evidence in the case, saying investigators need time to assess forensic details, toxicology reports and witness statements before deciding how to proceed.

He did say the officer who shot Brown was treated at a hospital for facial swelling after the incident. He didn’t say what happened to the officer, but police have said Brown and the officer fought.

While police say the officer shot Brown during a dangerous struggle, witnesses told CNN that the teenager was running away when the officer first shot at him.

Two witnesses told CNN on Wednesday that while Brown did appear to tussle with an officer before he was shot, he didn’t enter the police cruiser as authorities say he did.

michael brown

“It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,” Tiffany Mitchell told CNN’s Don Lemon.

A shot went off, Brown broke free and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

“I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Mitchell’s co-worker, Piaget Crenshaw, said. Brown ran about 20 feet, she said.

Then, “Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.

Finally, he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

The women’s accounts corroborate that of a previous witness; all three said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Protest violence

While Wednesday’s protest began calmly, it quickly grew tense as dusk approached.

Police assembled in tactical gear near the protesters, ordering them to disperse.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described police placing what it described as “high-caliber automatic weapons” on tripods atop armored vehicles and pointing them at protesters.

News photographers took snaps of young men lighting Molotov cocktails. And a CNN crew found spent crowd-control stun grenades lying in the street.

Ferguson, MO Protests - August 14, 2014

Police fired tear gas canisters at a crowd near a gas station that has turned into a gathering point for rowdy protests after dark.

Officers raised their guns at people heading for the protest, yelling for them to turn back.

As protesters scattered from the thick clouds of tear gas, officers in riot gear marched slowly in their direction to clear the area, ordering protesters and reporters filming to shut off their cameras, according to media reports.

A tear gas canister landed directly in front of the live television reporting position of Al Jazeera America; the crew ran, leaving its equipment behind. Then an officer later approached the camera and pointed it at the ground, CNN affiliate KSDK reported.

Al Jazeera America issued a statement calling the incident an “egregious assault on the freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”

Journalists detained

Earlier in the day, police detained and released two journalists — Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post — who had been covering the shooting and the unrest. Neither was charged.

They said they were taken into custody at a McDonald’s restaurant, where they were working, for failing to meet a police officer’s deadline to pack up their gear and move.

“All of this went down, as you can see in the video, in less than two minutes,” Lowery told CNN’s “New Day.”

“The idea that we posed any sort of threat because we weren’t quickly enough packing up our bags is just ludicrous,” Reilly told “New Day.”

Jackson said Thursday that he does not know why the reporters were detained. He also said he did not know about the Al Jazeera complaint.

“The media is not a target,” he said.

Police also detained St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has posted a continuous stream of protest video to social media. He was released Thursday morning, he said.

Obama decried the treatment of the journalists, saying that “here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people what they see on the ground.”

In all, police arrested 12 people — including the two reporters — Wednesday night, Jackson said, bringing the total since the weekend to 65. He had previously said 18 people had been arrested.

‘Just in shock’

Much of the anger among protesters has been directed at officials who have refused to release the name of the officer who shot Brown. Officials say police officers, and others in the administration and police force, have been subjected to death threats.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit seeking the release of the officer’s name under the state’s open records law.

It’s unclear whether the suit will succeed. Missouri law provides a specific exemption barring the release of records that authorities conclude are “likely to pose a clear and present danger” to victims, witnesses or others.

On Thursday, the shadowy activist group Anonymous published the name of the officer it believes responsible for the shooting. Earlier, the group claimed to have hacked the city servers and obtained dispatch recordings and other information.

Jackson later said the group had the wrong officer. CNN is not reporting the name.

Jackson was supposed to meet Thursday with Brown’s mother, the NAACP and a Department of Justice representative, but he said that meeting had to be postponed at the request of family attorney Benjamin Crump. He still hoped to meet with them Thursday.

Crump said Brown’s family is frustrated with the lack of information from police.

“Like all the people in that community and many people around the country, they’re just in shock that this could happen to an unarmed teenager in broad daylight,” he told CNN. “It makes no sense, and they feel there’s no way it could be justified.”

CNN’s Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Ana Cabrera reported from Ferguson. CNN’s Ben Brumfield, Yon Pomrenze, Don Lemon, Bill Kirkos, Melanie Whitley, Andy Rose, Jackie Damico and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

9 comments

  • Kellen

    You just got fired on national TV, you incompetent jerk. There are good cops all over the country, but in St. Louis County there are utter losers running the show. Incompetent and ignorant fools. Go away, tool.

    • 143almostthere

      um yeah hon, I bet you could do a better job of policing. The couch potatoes getting their welfare checks always think they can.

  • RenaldoTPartythumbsup

    Ok…so I posted but somehow was interrupted and didn’t post. Don’t resist and fight the Police and you wont get shot. There is no such thing as an unarmed man 18 years old or not, black, green pink purple yellow or indigo fuchsia pink doesn’t matter, the cops are armed and the threat of them having their guns taken away from them in a struggle like the one this story is about is a real threat and authorizes the use of deadly force. The whole story will some out I’m sure. The race mongering and irresponsibility of the media reporting half truths is appalling and gross to say the least. Keep selling your “unarmed teen” angle like it was sugar water to the general affable public who believe all they read. As to the riots, called peaceful protest? If the cops where tactical gear to protect themselves better from people who throw bricks and fire bombs how is offending the public even an issue? Wake up and smell the coffee people. The police should stop doing as they are ordered and watch that town get destroyed by loiters and mobs while Holder then cries about dereliction of duty. The one’s who serve daily can’t win.

    • **********

      Its funny how you only named one actual race(Black) in your comment, if you are saying it doesnt matter why not say Black, White, Indian, Asian etc, He shot him already which obviously got the young mans attention, why did he have to continue shooting is all Im saying…. **sheeesh**

  • Becky

    99/100% pure Two-Faced of Bull.
    While the President is “concerned”, the DoInjustice offers his exclusively select enforcement. Gentle caregiving, for the poor, poor, illegal, lawless Rioters, now posed as “demonstrators”.
    One-way scripts to highlight solely the big bad wolf Police; and not the illegal, lawless, Rioters.
    It IS this covert, subversive Federal Administration that has supplied, equipped, and geared up the local and state police, nationwide, with paramilitary weapons, equipment and tanks. This is Against the US Constitution and Citizens. It was deliberately set up and orchestrated by this Administration’s
    Legal Eagles. One Face is concerned; the other Face is in Full Battle Dress. Governing Media Forces are in a frenzied, hyper-active, state to stroke, incite, agitate, and war monger. Continuous Blitzkreig bombardments are carried out by command and to Control the masses’ minds, thoughts, opinions, and attitudes to attain Administration’s goal, mission, objective, covertly.

    • Kim

      All this typing & still saying nothing. Shut the he** up !!! The cop should not have murdered this young man. He shot him once, why keep shooting??? If the cop was that afraid he needs another job. I do admit there are plenty of good cops out here & there are plenty of bad ones too.

      • Becky

        He** NO! PC favoritism is NOT an entitlement to complete moral turpitude; Rioting for “Justice”.
        Equal justice would include their arrest, names releases, charges, and prosecutions for illegal
        lawlessness, under LAW, without discrimination. By their own hands, attitudes, and recorded
        behaviors, they, themselves, have stamped, embossed, and substantiated the perception of blacks.

  • mbaker9105

    I don’t know what happened, with luck the justice system will properly handle it. It’s a death that needs a thorough investigation by a third party (not Holder and that bunch, political appointees should not be involved, their main thing is politics). It’s the riots that bother me. The black community never seems to react this strongly to the daily shootings and murders of black on black in their communities. That doesn’t seem to matter as much to them, but does so much more harm on a daily basis in the communities than these occasional events. And where is Rev. Al when those happen? No camera face time or money to be made, so not a peep. Murder is Murder. And many people don’t even seem to know the difference from a protest and a riot. Many, not all, just tearing up other peoples businesses and stealing things. Does taking those shoes and widescreen TV’s make you feel better? It just makes you a criminal, and makes you look like a savage. To see the good work and progress by Dr. King just seem to mean nothing to anyone anymore is truly sad.

  • seeit

    The Democratic Federal Administration furnished all the Riot Gear, weapons, equipment, and tanks
    to nationwide police. However, when used Against specific Rioters, the Media and Democrats
    Rage. They did not, Rage, however, when set up, predetermined, orchestrated, and covert Operation was being implemented as Perfectly Correct, and in according with Agendas,
    deliberately, Against the US Constitution and “Other” Citizens of the US, by the Infamous Democratic Legal Eagles.

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