Obama calls for calm, sends Holder to Ferguson, Mo.
President Barack Obama said Monday he has dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder to meet with federal and local authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police has sparked days of protests and violence.
Obama again urged calm in Ferguson, where protesters have taken to the streets daily for the past week calling for the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown to be charged with murder.
Obama says Holder will travel to the St. Louis suburb on Wednesday.
“It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting,” Obama said at the White House. “A small minority is not.”
Obama spoke following meeting with Holder and other advisers Monday at the White House on the situation in the St. Louis suburb, after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered National Guard troops into the town to restore order.
Holder, in a statement, said he’s also sending to Ferguson several Justice Department officials with expertise in community relations and crowd control.
A preliminary autopsy made public Monday by lawyers for Brown’s family shows he was struck at least six times by bullets from the officer’s pistol. At least two of the shots hit Brown in the head, former New York City chief medical examiner Michael Baden, who conducted the examination, said Monday at a news conference in St. Louis.
An official autopsy by the St. Louis county medical examiner hasn’t been released. A third and final autopsy was performed Monday for the Justice Department, Holder said.
Earlier, the independent autopsy showed the unarmed teenager suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned, but “we don’t know,” a pathologist hired by the teen’s family said Monday. Witnesses said Brown’s hands were above his head when he was repeatedly shot Aug. 9.
Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted Baden during the private autopsy, said a bullet grazed Brown’s right arm. He said the teen may have had his back to the shooter, or he could have been facing the shooter with his hands above his head or in a defensive position.
“We don’t know,” Parcells said. “We still have to look at the other (elements) of this investigation before we start piecing things together.”
Brown’s fatal shooting by a Ferguson police officer has heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white police department. Another protest quickly deteriorated Sunday night as marchers pushed toward one end of a street, and authorities — who said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails — pushed them back with tear gas.
The streets were empty before a state-imposed midnight curfew, but hours later, Gov. Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson. Nixon said they would be under the direction of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which the governor has put in charge of overseeing the protests.
Nixon lifted the neighborhood’s midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew later Monday, two days after he declared a state of emergency.
After nightfall, police and protesters were again in a tense standoff Monday as crowds filled the streets. Officers used bullhorns to order people out of the street and deployed noisemakers and armored vehicles to push demonstrators back. There were no immediate reports of violence.
Two men were arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, police said. A photographer for the Getty photo agency was arrested while covering the demonstrations and later released.
Authorities were also establishing a designated protest zone for nightly demonstrations. The plan was announced Monday by St. Louis County police.
It was not clear what would happen to those who refuse to use the area along West Florissant Avenue, where the majority of protests have occurred.
A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown’s death, but it’s unclear how long it may take, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney.
Associated Press contributed.
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