If you're like me you probably thought that you'd seen the last of Ferguson, Missouri. Which would be a relief because not hearing about Feeguson would mean that all is well. At least as far as we knew. But over the past few days in the wake of marches to commemorate the murder of Mike Brown, the young black man murdered by a police officer a little over a year ago, another outbreak of violence has erupted sparked by another "questionable" police shooting.
A man who was shot and critically injured by police after authorities said he opened fire at officers was in critical condition Monday, his father said, as questions remained about what sparked the gunfire amid peaceful protests marking the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
The late-night shooting was a violent mark on a mostly peaceful day of protests and vigils commemorating a year since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white Ferguson officer, an event that thrust this small suburb of St. Louis into the center of a national conversation about how police officers use lethal force when faced with minorities.
It heightened fears about what the latest bloodshed could do to a tense community that has repeatedly been unsettled by unrest over the last year. Activists had planned a day of civil disobedience on Monday, and dozens of people were arrested in St. Louis on Monday.
On Monday afternoon, the St. Louis County executive declared a state of emergency in response to what he called “the potential for harm to persons and property” in the area.
“The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger,” Steve Stenger, the county executive, said in a statement. “The time and investment in Ferguson and Dellwood will not be destroyed by a few that wish to violate the rights of others.”
Stenger said that he would place the St. Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar, in charge of police emergency management in Ferguson and the surrounding area, a nearby city.
Belmar held a news conference early Monday morning to discuss the man shot by his officers, saying that this man had opened fire on an unmarked police SUV shortly before midnight.
On Monday, the office of Robert P. McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, charged Tyrone Harris, 18, with 10 counts of assaulting law enforcement, shooting at a motor vehicle and armed criminal action as a result of this incident.
Harris remained in critical condition at a hospital in the area, according to the St. Louis County Police Department. He is being held on a $250,000 cash-only bond, a spokesman said.
The man shot by police had been identified by local news outlets as Tyrone Harris Jr. In a telephone interview Monday, Tyrone Harris Sr., who identified himself as Harris’s father, said that two girls who were with the younger Harris before he got shot said he didn’t have a gun.......
Belmar said police were responding to reports of looting on West Florissant Avenue, which served as the focal point for the protests and unrest that followed Brown’s death last year and where stores were burned and looted on several nights.
Tensions began to increase at about 8 p.m. local time. With most of those who came to Ferguson to demonstrate gathered at a rap concert and a panel discussion, groups of young men began breaking into storefronts along West Florissant.
As a result, police cut off traffic to the area and deployed officers in riot gear, a visible police presence that prompted angry locals and some protesters to gather opposite the line of officers. While this was happening, Belmar said, plainclothes detectives farther down West Florissant were monitoring a person they believed to be armed, who was with at least three or four other people they also believed to have weapons.
Even as protesters and police were facing off nearby, two groups that were apparently involved in some kind of feud began firing at each other, Belmar said. He said between 40 and 50 shots were fired over about 45 seconds.
“It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” Belmar said.
The person being tracked by the detectives crossed the street and left the area where the two groups were facing off, and he may have been preparing to return, Belmar said.
At that point, an unmarked SUV with its interior red and blue lights illuminated began moving toward the man, who began firing at the vehicle, striking the hood and windshield multiple times, Belmar said.
He was armed with a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol reported stolen last year, Belmar said.
These detectives returned fire from inside the car and were not sure if they hit the man, Belmar said. They followed the man toward a fenced-in area where he again opened fire, Belmar said, and all four detectives who had been in the SUV fired at the man. He was taken to a nearby hospital in critical, unstable condition.
The four detectives, who were placed on administrative leave, have not been identified.
Belmar said that this confrontation between police and the lone man “wasn’t the culmination of all the shooting,” though, adding that it was somewhat separate from the two groups firing at each other. Belmar said it was possible the man shot by police had left the two groups because he was afraid he was going to be shot.
“They were criminals,” Belmar said of the people who opened fire. “They weren’t protesters.”
Yet the protesters are being treated as if they are criminals.
Police were not clear on why the two groups were fighting, Belmar said.
Tyrone Harris Sr. also said that his son remained in critical condition, but said he was not allowed in the hospital and was told to remain on the sidewalk outside.