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An unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot and killed by police in suburban St. Louisafter an altercation that involved two people and an officer, authorities said Sunday while hundreds of protesters demanded answers outside.
Police have not officially disclosed the name of the man who was killed, but family members say it was 18-year-old Michael Brown.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference that an officer encountered two people on the street near an apartment complex Saturday afternoon in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis.
Belmar said one of the men pushed the officer back into his squad car and the struggle began. Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the police car.
The struggle spilled out into the street, where one of the two people was shot multiple times. Belmar said the exact number of shots wasn’t known, but “It was more than just a couple.” He also said all shell casings found at the scene matched the officer’s gun.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the man who was shot was unarmed.
Jackson said police are in contact with the second person who was involved in the altercation, but that the person has not been arrested or charged and is expected to be interviewed later Sunday. Authorities aren’t sure if the second person was unarmed, Jackson said.
Tensions in the community are still high, reports CBS affiliate KMOV in St. Louis. A large police presence is on hand.
Police are asking the community to stay calm and allow the investigation to proceed.
During the news conference, which was held in a separate building, some protesters walked into the Ferguson Police Department chanting “don’t shoot me” and holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase and stopped the crowd without using force.
Others outside shouted “We want answers” and “no justice, no peace,” and some carried signs saying “stop police terrorism” and “disarm the police.”
The St. Louis County Police are in charge of the investigation. On Saturday, John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.” And State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she would ask the U.S. Justice Department on Monday for a formal investigation.
Gaskin alluded to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was subsequently acquitted of murder charges, as well as the New York man who died from a police chokehold after he was confronted for selling individual cigarettes.
“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.
The officer has been with the Ferguson Police Department for six years and that he wasn’t aware of other issues involving the man, Belmar said. The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is a common procedure after officer-involved shootings.
After the news conference, several protesters yelled at the officers who surrounded the crowd.
“I don’t want you killing my child just because he walked out the door,” Shontell Walters, of Ferguson, said.
Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, said Saturday she saw him in her neighborhood, and minutes later, she heard a commotion and went outside. She found Brown’s body less than two blocks away.
“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said of Brown, who she added had recently graduated high school. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, had harsh words Saturday for authorities.
“You’re not God, you don’t get to decide when you get to take somebody from here,” she told KSDK.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed a sprint car driver who was walking on a dirt track during a race in upstate New York on Saturday night.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department’s investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was “fully cooperative.”
Povero would not identify the driver, but said he was pronounced dead Saturday night at a hospital in Canandaigua.
Stewart-Haas Racing, of which Stewart is a co-owner, released a statement early Sunday morning.
“A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating,” the statement read. “Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.”
A video of the crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed driver Kevin Ward Jr. walking toward Stewart’s car before being hit and hurtled 50 feet.
Povero said the 42-year-old Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion and frequent competitor at local sprint car events, was questioned and released. The sheriff is asking for people who have video of the crash to contact the office so copies can be obtained for review.
“People that witnessed it were horrified,” Povero said of the crash. “They were extremely shocked.”
Calls to Stewart’s representatives were not immediately returned, and he was scheduled to race in in NASCAR’s event Sunday at Watkins Glen. There was no word on if Stewart would pull out of the race, which is critical for his championship chances.
Video of the crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed Ward, in the No. 13 car, spin into a wall after contact with Stewart’s car. The video showed Ward, wearing a black firesuit and black helmet, climb quickly from his car and briskly walk around it in what appeared to be an attempt to confront Stewart as he passed by in his own car, Stewart’s familiar No. 14.
The video showed Ward to the right of Stewart’s car, which seemed to kick out from the rear and hit Ward. The driver was hurtled through the air and emergency personnel quickly reached Ward as he lay on the track.
Michael Messerly, a fan who witnessed the crash, said it appeared Stewart — racing there on the eve of a race at Watkins Glen — hit a driver who was walking on the dimly lit track after they had collided on the previous lap.
He said Stewart struck the driver as he tried to speed past him.
“I didn’t see (the other driver) anymore,” he said. “It just seemed like he was suddenly gone.”
The accident came just four days after Stewart marked the one-year anniversary of an accident in a sprint car race in Iowa, where he suffered a compound fracture to his right leg. The injury cost him the second half of the NASCAR season.
The track, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race within five minutes and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to “pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.”
It said a statement on the crash would come later Sunday.
Ward’s website said he began racing go-karts in 1998 at age 4, but didn’t start driving sprint cars until 2010. He was Empire Super Sprint rookie of the year in 2012 and this year was his fifth season racing the Empire Super Sprints.
Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park that seriously injured a 19-year-old driver. He later took responsibility for his car making contact with another and triggering the 15-car accident that left Alysha Ruggles with a compression fracture in her back.
On Saturday, ambulances, fire trucks and police arrived within minutes of the crash, Messerly said. Fans filed out in stunned silence, he said.
Stewart only returned to sprint track racing last month, almost a year after breaking his leg in the crash at an Iowa track. He didn’t return to racing in any form until February when preparation for NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 began.
He refused to stop his extracurricular racing despite the injury and was scheduled to race Sunday.
Stewart was a spectator at the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the accident, and posted on his Twitter account: “Thank you to everyone that worked so hard to get me back to where I’m at today. It’s your life, live it!”
Roughly three hours after the accident in New York, Donny Schatz, a sprint car driver for Tony Stewart Racing, won the prestigious Knoxville Nationals in Iowa for an eighth time. Stewart had spent much of the earlier part of the week trackside in Iowa watching his drivers compete.
“I was just told there was an incident involving Tony. I don’t know to what extent or what’s happening,” Schatz said.
The four-team Stewart-Haas Racing.Sprint Cup organization fields cars for Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. He’s struggled a bit this year since returning, and heads into Sunday’s race winless on the season and ranked 19th in the standings.
Stewart was scheduled to start 13th on Sunday at Watkins Glen International in south central New York state. He has just five races remaining to either score a win or move inside the top 16 in points to grab a valuable spot in NASCAR’s championship race.
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