By Chris Hoenig
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is deploying the Missouri National Guard to Ferguson after some of the most tense protests yet in the St. Louis suburb.
Police fired tear gas into the crowds of protesters Sunday night, which Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said was necessary after Molotov cocktails were thrown and shots were fired at officers.
“When we saw violent acts we had to act to protect lives and property,” Johnson said, adding that the situation “took a very different turn after dark,” with looting and a civilian shooting around 8:25 p.m. Sunday.
“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,” Nixon said in a statement announcing the National Guard deployment.
“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory, and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes.”
Tensions first rose on Friday when police simultaneously announced the name of the officer that killed Brown and released surveillance video that they said shows Brown committing a strong-arm robbery just minutes before he died. Many in the community said they believed the police were trying to protect Officer Darren Wilsonwhom Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson admitted did not know that Brown was a suspect in the robbery of a box of cigars from a convenience store three blocks away when he stopped himby smearing Brown’s name. The 18-year-old’s family called the video’s releasewhich the Department of Justice had urged againsta “character assassination.” Brown had no previous criminal history.
With the escalating protests, a midnight5 a.m. curfew was ordered in the town. But despite the curfew, Captain Johnson continued to march with protesters during largely peaceful daytime rallies. Johnson’s arrival last week helped turn the tide from an aggressive, military-like police response to a coordinated, crowd-control response that restored peace for several days.
On Sunday, the release of a preliminary private autopsy revealed that Brown had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head. Dr. Michael Baden, the famed former Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York, conducted the autopsy in Missouri on Sunday at the request of the Brown family.
Each of the shots hit Brown in the front of his body, indicating that he was facing Wilson at the time. Four bullets hit Brown in the right arm, but the final, deadly shot entered the top of Brown’s skull. Baden said that meant that Brown was bent over, but it was unclear whether he was surrendering or possibly charging toward Wilson.
The lack of gunpowder on Brown’s body led Baden to conclude that the shots were not fired at close range, though the presence of gunpowder residue on Brown’s clothes could change that belief. Baden did not have access to the clothes, which are being held as evidence, or the X-rays that showed exactly where the bullets were in Brown’s body before they were removed.
Baden did add that at least one bullet entered and exited Brown’s body a total of five times, making it difficult to determine the precise number of times Brown had been shot.
Brown’s family pleaded for protesters to keep the rallies peaceful, but their pleas went unheeded.
“You guys say you’re doing this for my baby cousin, you say you’re doing this for justice,” Ty Pruitt, Brown’s cousin, said of the looters. “What are you accomplishing That’s what I want to know. What are you accomplishing by the ignorance you’re displaying in this community
“My family does not represent nor condone what’s going on here. We want answers, but this is not the way to get them. This is not the way to do it.”
Several protesters said they found the curfew insulting, even though they planned to abide by it. “I think it violates people’s right to assemble. It’s a bad idea. It further provokes these people,” Jeff Harris said.
“I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s unfair. No other municipality has a curfew for adults,” Antoine Hobson added.