ST. LOUIS — A day of remembrance for Michael Brown Jr. quickly turned violent late Sunday when police shot a man they said opened fire on them in Ferguson, Missouri close to where demonstrators gathered.
St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar said the suspect, who officials had not identified, is hospitalized in “critical and unstable” condition.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tyrone Harris identified the victim as his son, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr., of St. Louis. The elder Harris told the newspaper that his son and Michael Brown Jr. "were real close."
Belmar said the suspect was not a part of the civil rights demonstrations, which drew several hundred protesters to the streets of Ferguson Sunday evening. Instead, Belmar said, the man was among a group of suspected looters who later got into a gun battle with another person and possibly others.
“They were criminals, they weren’t protesters,” the chief said. “Protesters are out there talking about a way to affect change, whatever that may be.”
When the suspect spotted undercover officers tracking him in a vacant lot behind some businesses, he turned and fired on their unmarked police car with a stolen 9mm handgun, Belmar said.
All four officers from the car returned and have been placed on routine administrative leave.
“These are tragedies, make no mistake,” Belmar said during an early-morning news conference.
The burst of gunshots erupted as other officers were seeking to disperse a crowd of several hundred demonstrators who began blocking traffic along a main Ferguson thoroughfare. A news crew captured the chaos of the moment, as unsuspecting citizens scrambled for cover.
The chief estimated 40 to 50 shots were fired between the rival groups who shot at one another before the one man turned on police. “It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” Belmar said
A Twitter user, who was attending the protests, posted video of an officer passively standing near the suspect lying on the ground.
“Hey, he’s bleeding!” the videographer yells to police. “Please get him some help. He’s bleeding out, please get him some help, man.”
Minutes after the shots were heard, an Associated Press photographer saw a man lying face down, covered in blood, behind a boarded-up restaurant. Later, an AP reporter saw a woman overcome with grief. Friends were consoling her. She screamed: “Why did they do it?” Another woman nearby fainted. A man nearby said, “They killed my brother.”
In another video posting, the man who yelled for help is pushed away from the scene and detained by police.
“If you want to shoot a video, if we ask you to get back, especially in a situation like that, please just comply and get back,” Belmar said at the news conference. “You can move forward later. But at that time, we don’t have time to argue with people.”
The Twitter user, @search4swag, later tweeted that was eventually released, but had suffered a small cut under his eye from being shoved into a chain-link fence. “No big deal,” he wrote of his injury. He was still on the scene when paramedics arrived for the man shot by police.