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Cancer Vaccines Enter Clinical Trials

By Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

ST. LOUIS – Is the best treatment for cancer already inside of us? Research is underway at Washington University to test a new approach to cancer treatment. Beyond traditional therapies like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, scientists want to know if the human body’s own immune system can attack tumors.

They’re testing personalized vaccines designed to target deadly cancer cells in each patient. A vaccine is any substance that prevents or treats a disease with properties of the disease itself. Scientists know that fighting fire with fire works for many viruses like flu, measles or polio. Now they want to test that theory with cancer, but since every tumor is different, every vaccine will be different.

Advancements in genetic sequencing, or decoding the DNA of cells, have made it easier to figure out what makes tumors unique. Scientists have found potential targets in tumor cells that could cause them to break down. Now they’re passing that knowledge on to doctors to try out in their patients with the most challenging cancers. Clinical trials are now enrolling patients with melanoma, brain cancer and breast cancer.

The concept is hypothetical. The research is experimental. There is no proof that it works.

But after staring down deadly cancers, tumors that have spread, and patients who are out of options, doctors are intrigued.

For decades, scientists have gone back and forth on whether the immune system – the body’s defense mechanism – has anything to do with cancer. In the 1950s a concept called cancer immuno-surveillance took hold, meaning that the immune system could recognize tumor cells as foreign. By the 1970s the theory was rejected after laboratory mice with weak immune systems did no worse than normal mice when they developed cancer.

Most cancer scientists moved on to trying different pharmaceutical routes for new treatments. Robert Schreiber of Washington University wanted to know more about those mice. He started more sophisticated tests with mice that lacked a critical gene that allowed the immune system to make lymphocytes – white blood cells that defend the body against disease.

“What we showed conclusively was mice that had defects in the immune system got tumors more quickly and in higher incidences than normal mice,” Schreiber said.

And with that, the concept of cancer immunology was back. The Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs at Washington University launched last year with Schreiber as director to help doctors use the immune system to fight cancer and other diseases.

Other medical centers around the world have taken different approaches to cancer immunology. Duke University is working with a polio virus vaccine to induce the immune system to fight brain tumors. The Mayo Clinic is doing a similar trial with a measles vaccine. Other clinical trials involve reprogramming the immune system’s checkpoints that prevent it from attacking certain cells.

Washington University leads the study of personalized cancer vaccines. With help from their genetic sequencing labs, local scientists try to isolate the best antigen targets – or the most dangerous mutated cells – from each patient’s tumor to vaccinate against.

Vaccines are typically viewed as preventive, such as flu shots to help avoid flu infection. Cancers known to be caused by viruses can also be prevented this way. The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent some cervical cancers and the hepatitis B shot protects against development of liver cancer caused by that virus.

Scientists now think vaccines can also be used to stimulate the immune system to fight cancers that are already formed. But without a known virus or other cause, scientists must figure out what differentiates a patient’s tumor cells from healthy cells. Then they must try to vaccinate against mutations, called neo-antigens that occur only in the bad cells.

The immune system is a finely tuned machine that is difficult to manipulate. One challenge is turning up a patient’s immunity without harming healthy cells, the process that happens in autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis. One type of immunotherapy, called checkpoint blockade, is risky because it can backfire and make the patient vulnerable to an overly aggressive or weakened immune response. Cancer vaccines, in theory, could be safer because they activate more highly precise targets.

“The real essence of that vaccine design is picking out the peptides (proteins) that have the strongest interaction with the patient’s immune system,” said Elaine Mardis, director of technology development at the university’s McDonnell Genome Institute. “It’s a different answer for every patient.”

Melanoma
The first human trial to apply this concept included three patients with melanoma whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes. After surgeries to remove their tumors, their cancerous and healthy cells were sequenced to identify mutations. The patients received an infusion using cells from their own immune systems. The treatments stimulated the immune system through a boost of protective T-cells.

After 20 years of specializing in treating deadly skin cancers, the results published earlier this year were gratifying for Dr. Gerald Linette, a co-leader of the trial. But he urges patience to those looking for quick answers.

“(We) are still really the only lab that’s done this in people, and that’s three patients. I think that we have to be very cautious. Time will tell if this is going to work or not,” Linette said.

His partner in the trial, Beatriz Carreno, said genetic sequencing technology has sped the process of using mutations to encourage the immune system to fight cancer. They are now expanding the clinical trial to include more patients.

Brain cancer
Brain tumors are particularly challenging for immunotherapy targets because the molecules are more diverse compared to other cancers. And the immune system works differently in the brain than it does in the skin or other areas of the body. Messing with the immune system in the nervous system can lead to paralysis or brain damage.

Genetic sequencing creates a search party for “the Achilles heel in each patient’s tumor,” said Dr. Gavin Dunn, a neurosurgeon. A clinical trial is underway to test vaccines against the most deadly brain tumors, called glioblastomas. The first patient will get a personalized vaccine in the next few weeks.

Breast cancer
Dr. William Gillanders led a study in 2010 on a vaccine that used a target called mammaglobin-A, a protein that is expressed in most breast cancers. The vaccine proved to be safe in women who had late-stage breast cancer that had spread to other parts of the body. The women had previously received traditional surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Close to half of the 14 patients who received the vaccine had no tumor growth after one year, compared to one-fifth of the 12 patients who did not receive the vaccine.

Michelle Ashby of O’Fallon, Ill., was one of the patients who received the vaccine after she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at age 40.

“I knew there needed to be more research on breast cancer and if the study didn’t directly give me benefit, I felt confident it would give benefit to my daughter and other people who are struggling with breast cancer,” Ashby said.

For the next 5 years, Ashby had no cancer recurrence. In August, doctors found some cancerous growth in her breast tissue and it was removed surgically.

“I have statistically beaten the odds of what was expected of my survival,” said Ashby, now 46.

That initial research on the mammaglobin-A vaccine will be expanded with more patients, and new clinical trials are open to test personalized vaccines for breast cancer.

“Now that we understand that there is this very dynamic interaction between the immune system and cancers,” Gillanders said, “a lot of people think that immune responses will be more effective” with personalized vaccines.

Drug companies are not enthusiastic about the idea of personalized medical care that would require a different vaccine for each cancer patient. But new biotech companies are forming to take this approach. Schreiber of Washington University is a co-founder of one of these companies, Boston-based Neon.

Schreiber said that in five years, scientists should have a good idea if cancer vaccine treatments will be ready for general use. A lot of evidence will be required to prove that the immune system can effectively kill off cancer.

Personalized vaccines can’t be mass manufactured for pharmacy shelves. But the process of making them can be streamlined, doctors say. The process that wasn’t even possible five years ago has now been expedited to a few months from genetic sequencing of a patient’s tumor to the injection of the vaccine. The work is a classic example of moving basic science out of the laboratory and into the doctor’s clinic.

The looming question is what happens next. Dunn, the neurosurgeon who specializes in the deadliest type of brain tumors, said he believes in the basic science behind cancer vaccines.

“I really want to be measured about the expectations because we just don’t know yet,” he said. “But I’m an optimist by nature, and I’m extremely hopeful that what we’re learning in cancer immunotherapy will really bring us to a place where we can help patients.”

(c)2015 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

Vigil Draws Dozens To Scene Near Where Officers Were Shot In Ferguson

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

FERGUSON, Mo. — A candlelight vigil organized “for all who mourn” drew dozens of people Thursday night to a spot just yards from where two police officers were shot hours earlier.

Authorities called the shootings — which escalated tension in an already jittery city — an “ambush.”

But despite canvassing nearby neighborhoods for hours — at one point zeroing in on a single nearby residence — no arrests had been announced by late in the day.

The two officers shot were treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and released, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

One officer injured in the shooting was with Belmar’s department. The other is a Webster Groves police officer.

The Webster Groves officer was shot just below his right eye. Although the officer was released from the hospital Thursday, the bullet remained lodged just below his right ear, Belmar said. That officer is 32 and has been on the force for five years.

The bullet that hit the county officer in the right shoulder exited from the right side of his back, Belmar said. That officer is 41 and has been in law enforcement for 14 years.

At Thursday night’s vigil, the Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, who organized the event, prayed for the police officers in a service that also featured a small choir.

But Blackmon also vowed to continue the protests that began with the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

“Over 200 days later and we’re still standing,” said Blackmon, of Christ the King United Church of Christ, who has been a fixture of the protests. “We cannot be moved and will not give up.”

Earlier in the day, Blackmon and more than two dozen other clergy members issued a statement speaking out against the shooting of police.

“We bear witness that last night’s shooters were not part of the protesting community. We condemn the actions they took to put first responders and peaceful protesters in harm’s way,” read the statement.

“Last night’s events do not bring us closer to the goals of our movement, which has been rooted in the principles of nonviolent direct action.”

Protests had been light Thursday evening, but crowds built to several dozen people following the vigil.

The Missouri Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police took over Ferguson protest security Thursday night. Ferguson police continued to handle routine policing in the city, St. Louis County police said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Early Thursday, just after midnight, authorities say at least three shots were fired at police following several hours of protests outside the Ferguson police station.

Many had expected a peaceful night, given the resignation earlier in the day by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson. Many protesters had called for Jackson’s ouster.

Instead, as the shots were fired, the scene turned chaotic. Some protesters dropped to the ground. Others fled, as the gunfire was captured on video.

“Bullets were flying past us,” said Martez Little, 25, of north St. Louis County, who said he witnessed the shooting. “We heard them whistling by and saw two officers drop to their knees … The shots were coming off a hill, but we didn’t see nobody shooting.”

The two officers who were shot had been standing in a line of about 25 officers. The gunfire came from the area of a parking lot about 125 yards away and were “parallel to the ground,” Belmar said, leading him to believe the officers were targeted.

“When you listen to the audio (in video from the scene), you can actually hear those shots singing,” Belmar said.

The shootings were condemned Thursday by a wide range of public officials, including President Barack Obama.

“Violence against police is unacceptable,” Obama tweeted from the @WhiteHouse Twitter account. “Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together.”

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon also released a statement. “Each day, our law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public, and the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling,” the statement read in part.

Belmar said he believes the shots came from a handgun, not a rifle, based on the injuries and the sound of the shots.

The chief said no suspects have been identified in the shootings but that detectives recovered shell casings near the scene. He said it was not clear whether those shell casings were from the shooting. He said some witnesses have been “forthright” in helping police with the investigation.

“We’re lucky by God’s grace that we didn’t lose those two officers last night,” Belmar said. “We could have buried two police officers next week because of this.”

On Thursday morning, officers swarmed a home in Ferguson in their search for a gunman.

Tactical officers surrounded a brick bungalow on Dade Avenue near Tiffin Avenue. The home is about four blocks west of the police station.

Officers went in with dogs about 9:30 a.m. A neighbor said he saw police bring two men out of the home. The woman who neighbors say rents the home was also brought out in handcuffs.

Police said they were questioning the three but that they were not under arrest. They declined to provide further details.

Belmar said he felt police had been fortunate since protests erupted in Ferguson in August after the shooting of Brown in that officers patrolling those protests have not been injured.

“I think it’s a miracle that we haven’t had any instances such as this over the summer and fall,” Belmar said Thursday.

The chief said one of the biggest challenges facing police on the protest lines is discerning peaceful protesters from troublemakers.

“This is another layer that makes it very difficult for our officers out there,” he said.

CrimeStoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the shooting.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) added a $3,000 reward for information.

“I completely condemn the cowardly ambush of the brave officers who were wounded last night in Ferguson,” Clay said in a joint statement with Cleaver. “I ask everyone to join me in prayers for their swift recovery and for healing in our community. The path of violence does not lead to justice.”

Added Cleaver in the statement: “What happened in Ferguson last night was a terrible tragedy, and we cannot stand idly by as others transgress. We encourage anyone who has information to come forward.”

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement offering the Justice Department’s “full range of investigative resources.” He noted that “Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”

Speaking later Thursday, Holder described the shooting as the actions of a “damn punk” who was “trying to sow discord.”

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said the shooting showed the dangers confronted by police, and Blunt used that point to assert that police had not overreacted initially after the Aug. 9 shooting. Blunt said claims that there had been police “militarization” in Ferguson were “totally fact-free.”

“The police are trying to get home to their families alive,” Blunt said. “They have a hard job to do.”

And U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called the shootings “a criminal act that jeopardized the lives of police officers and protesters both. I hope the officers have a full recovery and pray for them and their families. It’s time for healing and reform, and acts of violence have no place in this process.”

Ferguson Councilwoman Kim Tihen woke to the news that two officers had been shot.

“I’m concerned about escalating violence, especially against our officers,” she said. “They’ve endured so much stress already.”

Tihen, who spent four years as a Ferguson police officer, now works as a detective in another municipality. She represents the First Ward in Ferguson, which is on the northeast side of town. She has been on the council about three years.

“We want peace in our community,” she said.

With all of the big changes at the top of Ferguson government, namely the resignations of Police Chief Jackson and City Manager John Shaw, Tihen said she wonders what would satisfy the protesters.

“I’m not sure what more they want,” she said. “I would like to ask them come to us, tell us what we can do to continue to heal the community.

“We are willing to work with them, the protesters in general,” she said.

Belmar said that 60 to 70 protesters had come to the Ferguson Police Department in the hours before the shootings.

Some blocked roads and sidewalks. The protests prompted police departments to send officers, some in riot gear. At least three arrests were made during the protests before the shots were fired. That came later in the night as the protest began to dwindle.

Several members of the media, including a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter and photographer, were near the officers who were shot.

Reporters, photographers and police ran behind two brick walls, and officers pulled out their weapons. Then a line of police cars from more than a dozen departments arrived.

Police closed South Florissant Road in front of the police station and cordoned a section of the area off with crime scene tape.

Belmar said the shots were fired from across South Florissant, northwest of the police station. Witnesses said the shots appeared to come from the direction of a block of homes on Tiffin Avenue that intersects South Florissant.

Bradley Rayford, a freelance journalist who has been reporting from Ferguson since the unrest began last summer, said he saw three or four muzzle flashes from the crest of Tiffin Avenue, a residential neighborhood with large century-old homes atop a hill that overlooks the police station.

He was in front of the police line on South Florissant at the time. He said he couldn’t tell whether the shots were being fired from a vehicle.

At 2:30 a.m., a contingent of about 25 officers ascended the hill and began scouring the front yard of a home directly behind a tire business, their flashlights sweeping in arcs as they searched for evidence.

About 25 protesters remained at the scene about two hours after the shooting. Police wouldn’t let them leave until they gave statements.

The protesters seemed to be two camps. The first were there to make a point that they weren’t satisfied with the recent resignations of Ferguson officials. They were chanting in unison.

The other group was volatile, angry, hurling profanities at the police, reporters and other protesters. Some skirmishes broke out among the factions.

At least two people were taken into custody, but those arrests occurred before the gunfire erupted.
___

Susan Weich, Christine Byers, Paul Hampel, Kim Bell, Margaret Gillerman, Valerie Schremp Hahn and Joel Currier, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.

Photo: Police mobilize in the parking lot of the Ferguson Police Station after two police officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015 in Ferguson, Mo. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Police Search For Those Who Shot Two Officers In Ferguson ‘Ambush’

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

FERGUSON, Mo. — Officers swarmed a home in Ferguson, Missouri, on Thursday morning in a search for those responsible for the shooting of two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department around midnight.

The two officers shot early Thursday are expected to survive, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. They were treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and released Thursday, though one still had a bullet lodged behind his ear.

Belmar called the shootings, which happed as protests outside the department were dwindling early Thursday morning, an “ambush” on police. At least three shots were fired at police just after midnight as police faced protesters who had gathered outside the police station, police said.

Later Thursday, tactical officers surrounded a brick bungalow. The home is about four blocks west of the police department. Officers went in with dogs about 9:30 a.m. A neighbor said he saw police bring two men out of the home. The woman who neighbors say rents the home was also brought out in handcuffs.

The neighbor also heard police talk of a third man hiding in the attic. Police later tried to enter the attic from the roof but were beginning to wrap up about 10:15 a.m. without bringing anyone else out.

Authorities have not discussed the situation at the house.

Belmar said one officer injured in the shooting was with his department. The other is a Webster Groves Police officer.

Belmar said in a Wednesday morning press conference that the Webster Groves officer was shot just below his right eye and that the bullet was lodged just below the officer’s right ear. That officer is 32 and has been on the force for five years.

The bullet that hit the county officer in the right shoulder exited from the right side of his back, Belmar said. That officer is 41 and has been in law enforcement for 14 years.

Belmar said he believes the shots came from a handgun, not a rifle, based on the injuries and the sound of the shots.

The chief said no suspects have been identified in the shootings but that detectives recovered shell casings near the scene. He said it was not clear if those shell casings were from the shooting. He said some witnesses have been “forthright” in helping police with the investigation.

“We’re lucky by God’s grace that we didn’t lose those two officers last night,” Belmar said. “We could have buried two police officers next week because of this.”

The officers had been standing in a line of about 25 officers when the shots were fired. The gunfire came from the area of a parking lot about 125 yards away and was “parallel to the ground,” Belmar said, leading him to believe the officers were targeted.

“When you listen to the audio (in video from the scene), you can actually hear those shots singing,” Belmar said.

The chief said that 60-70 protesters had come to the Ferguson Police Department earlier in the night, some of them blocking roads and sidewalks. The protests prompted neighboring police departments to send officers, some in riot gear. At least three arrests were made during the protests before the shots were fired. That came later in the night as the protest began to dwindle.

Belmar said he felt police had been fortunate since protests erupted in Ferguson in August, after the police shooting of Michael Brown, because officers patrolling those protests had not been injured.

“I think it’s a miracle that we haven’t had any instances such as this over the summer and fall,” Belmar said Wednesday.

The chief said one of the biggest challenges facing police on the protest lines is discerning peaceful protesters from troublemakers.

“This is another layer that makes it very difficult for our officers out there,” he said.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Thursday offering the Justice Department’s “full range of investigative resources.” He noted that “Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”

Politicians responded to the shootings early Thursday. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger tweeted out a message: “Our prayers are with the two officers injured in the line of duty overnight.”

And U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), called the shootings “a criminal act that jeopardized the lives of police officers and protesters both. I hope the officers have a full recovery and pray for them and their families. It’s time for healing and reform, and acts of violence have no place in this process.”

Ferguson Councilwoman Kim Tihen woke to the news Thursday that two officers had been shot.

“I’m concerned about escalating violence, especially against our officers,” she said. “They’ve endured so much stress already.”

Tihen, who spent four years as a Ferguson police officer, now works as a detective in another municipality. She represents the First Ward in Ferguson, which is on the northeast side of town. She has been on the council about three years.

“We want peace in our community,” she said.

With all of the big changes at the top, namely the resignations of the police chief and city manager, Tihen said she wonders what would satisfy the protesters.

“I’m not sure what more they want,” she said. “I would like to ask them come to us, tell us what we can do to continue to heal the community.”

“We are willing to work with them, the protesters in general,” she said.

The gunfire was captured on video by some of those at the scene.

After the shots were fired, the scene turned chaotic. Some protesters dropped to the ground. Others fled the scene.

Several members of the media, including a Post-Dispatch reporter and photographer, were near the officers who were shot.

Media and police ran behind two brick walls and officers pulled out their weapons. Then a line of police cars from more than a dozen departments arrived.

Police closed South Florissant Road in front of the police station and cordoned a section of the area off with crime scene tape.

Belmar said the shots were fired from across Florissant Road, northwest of the police department. Witnesses said the shots appeared to come from the direction of a block of homes on Tiffin Avenue that intersects South Florissant Road, where the police department is located.

Bradley Rayford, a freelance journalist who has been reporting from Ferguson since the unrest began there last summer, said he saw three or four muzzle flashes from the crest of Tiffin Hill, a residential neighborhood with large century-old homes.

He was in front of the police line on South Florissant at the time. He said he couldn’t tell if the shots were being fired from a vehicle.

At 2:30 a.m. a contingent of about 25 officers ascended the hill and began scouring the front yard of a home directly behind a tire business, their flashlights sweeping in arcs as they searched for evidence.

About 25 protesters remained at the scene about two hours after the shooting. Police wouldn’t let them leave until they gave statements.

The protesters seemed to be two camps. The first were there to make a point that they weren’t satisfied with the resignations of City Manager John Shaw and Police Chief Thomas Jackson. They were chanting in unison.

The other was volatile, angry, hurling profanities at the police, media and other protesters. Some skirmishes broke out among the factions.

At least two people were taken into custody, but those arrests occurred before the gunfire erupted.
___

Susan Weich, Christine Byers, Paul Hampel, Kim Bell and Joel Currier, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this story.

Photo: Police take cover after two officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015 in Ferguson, Mo. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

St. Louis Region Is On Edge In Wake Of Another Fatal Police Shooting

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

BERKELEY, Mo. — The region watched nervously Wednesday after another fatal shooting of a black man at the hands of a white police officer in a St. Louis County suburb prompted protests, at times violent, heading into a holiday.

Reaction from police and political leaders was markedly different in the first few hours after a Berkeley police officer shot and killed Antonio Martin, 18, Tuesday night, compared with the initial aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting that unfolded just months and miles apart from the scene.

Employees at the Mobil on the Run gas station and convenience store in the 6800 block of North Hanley Road called 911 late Tuesday to report two men had shoplifted from the store. A Berkeley police officer arrived about 11:15 p.m. and spotted two men who matched the suspects’ descriptions.

By 7 a.m. Wednesday, police released surveillance footage showing the men approaching the police cruiser as soon as it pulls onto the lot. Martin can be seen walking away from the officer several times after the officer gets out of his car to talk to the men. Martin then turns toward the officer and appears to be pointing a gun at him. The officer fires and stumbles to the ground as he tries to back away.

Protesters began arriving at the scene shortly after the shooting; they included ministers and others who have been active in the protests related to the Brown shooting in Ferguson. Many stayed overnight. At one point, police believe the crowd swelled to about 300, but it dwindled to about a dozen by about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A memorial formed through the day Wednesday at the gas station. Crowds began to gather again after 6 p.m. and had grown to about 100 by 8 p.m. Some marched to nearby Interstate 170 and shut sections of it down. Several police officers were also at the scene.

Four people were arrested early Wednesday morning for assaulting officers. A Florissant officer went to the emergency room with a leg injury he suffered as he tried to get away from one of two explosives used at the gas station. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar called the explosives disturbing because of the proximity to gas tanks. A third explosive at a QuikTrip near the Mobil station started a small fire, he said.

Protesters also threw bricks at officers, injuring one in the face, Belmar said.

He said several police cars were damaged, and some protesters brought bags of rocks to the scene.

Belmar said the early hostile reaction hindered the investigation, much as it had delayed the removal of Brown’s body in August.

Police used partitions to conceal Martin’s body from the crowd. It was removed from the scene about 1:40 a.m., or about two hours after the shooting. Brown’s body remained in the street for four hours.

The Rev. Starsky Wilson, who was interviewed at the scene, characterized the protest in Berkeley as nonviolent.

He is one of the co-chairmen of the Ferguson Commission set up by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to look into the social and economic issues at play in north St. Louis County.

“Black. Young person shot by a police officer,” Wilson said, describing it as a familiar narrative. “When you see police escalate, you see violence.”

Nixon’s statement about the Berkeley shooting supported police: “The events in Berkeley are a reminder that law enforcement officers have a difficult, and often dangerous, job in protecting themselves and law-abiding citizens.”

The statement was in contrast to Nixon’s initial remarks after the Ferguson shooting in which he pledged to seek justice for Brown’s family — a comment that offended police officials.

Belmar praised Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall for helping to calm the protests, using pepper spray but no tear gas. He said police had learned a lot from Ferguson, and noted that one of the first things McCall said to his commanders was, “Hey, let’s let this emotion vent. Let this happen.”

Belmar’s department also changed tactics from its initial response to media inquiries about the Ferguson shooting, releasing information more quickly and answering reporters’ questions in a news conference Wednesday.

County police released additional surveillance footage Wednesday afternoon along with pictures of the handgun that officers found at the scene. The 9 mm gun, which police believe Martin used, had five rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber.

Belmar said the gun’s serial number had been filed off.

Belmar also said in the news conference that Martin had been arrested multiple times, on suspicion of committing offenses including assaults, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon.

“We really do need to get to the point where we can at least wait for certain facts to materialize before we jump to conclusions, before we make attributions, before we become cynical,” he added.

Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins also hosted a news conference, taking time to differentiate the Martin shooting from others.

He said the city would conduct its own complete investigation, separate from the St. Louis County police investigation.

City, police officials and the officer’s attorney declined to name the officer involved in Tuesday’s shooting, other than to say he is 34. His attorney, Brian Millikan, said his client was a four-year veteran of the Berkeley police department and had served in Country Club Hills. He said he would oppose releasing his client’s name.

“It doesn’t do anything but subject him to threats and puts him and his family in harm,” Millikan said.

Millikan said his client recounted the details of the encounter to him several hours after the shooting.

He said one man spoke with the officer on the parking lot, while Martin kept wandering away despite the officer’s commands to stay near him, Millikan said.

Belmar said the officer, who had a flashlight in his left hand, was near his driver’s side door and Martin was near the headlights on the passenger side.

“The other guy was doing the talking, and as the cop starts talking, the suspect starts walking away again,” Millikan said. “At that point, the cop says, ‘Hey, come back here,’ and he turns around, pulls a gun from his left pant pocket.

“The cop pulls his weapon and starts backpedaling and fired three or four shots. It happened that quickly.”

Police still were seeking the man who was with Martin at the time of the shooting.

Belmar said he had talked to a number of young people at the scene, some of whom asked why the officer hadn’t used a Taser or pepper spray.

“Frankly that’s unreasonable,” Belmar said. “We had somebody who was pointing a gun at a police officer. With not a lot of time, I would imagine that most of us would feel like we were in imminent danger of losing our lives at that point.”

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City) agreed. She has been critical of police after the Ferguson shooting.

“I will always think what Darren Wilson did to Michael Brown was evil, but this is not Michael Brown, this is not Ferguson.” said Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson and Berkeley.

In fact, she said, if she were the police officer, she would have shot, too.

The Berkeley officer was wearing a body camera but did not activate it at the time of the shooting.

Millikan, the officer’s attorney, declined to elaborate, saying only that “there might be some internal issues.”

Belmar said the officer told his investigators that he had been doing something else when the body camera was handed to him at roll call.

“He said he clipped it somewhere in the car, didn’t put it on, and next thing you know you’re here,” Belmar said, adding that it could happen, particularly with new equipment if you aren’t used to it.

Berkeley Mayor Hoskins said the cameras were new, but once the officers are better trained on them, there would be penalties for not wearing them.

Belmar said he did not believe the car’s dash-camera was activated.

Another outspoken critic of the police, State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis), noted that the presence of a gun set Martin’s killing apart from Brown’s.

Still, she took to Twitter, calling for a special prosecutor to take the case because she believes all police-involved killings should be handled by special prosecutors.

Belmar said he had notified St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch of the shooting, and McCulloch assigned a prosecutor to the case.

The NAACP released a statement Wednesday, asking St. Louis to “refrain from any violent retaliation.”

Martin’s mother, Toni Martin-Green, collapsed in another woman’s arms at the scene when she learned her son had been killed.

Belmar expressed condolences to Martin’s family, but noted, “bad choices were made.”

“This individual could have complied with the officer,” Belmar said. “It didn’t have to end with him approaching the officer with an arm extended and a 9 mm pistol in his hand.”

Belmar said the officer had one prior use-of-force incident that involved a struggle over the officer’s gun. An armed suspect had barricaded himself inside a home, Belmar said. After police entered, there was a struggle over the officer’s gun. Belmar said the officer had dropped the magazine from his gun and shot into the floor to empty the chamber so the gun couldn’t be used against him.

Millikan described his client’s demeanor in the hours following Tuesday’s shooting as calm but shaken.

“On the one hand, you know you have followed proper procedures and policies, and, on the other hand, these guys are human beings, and on the day before Christmas, he had to take somebody’s life,” Millikan said.
___
(Christine Byers, Jesse Bogan, Valerie Schremp Hahn, Nicholas J.C. Pistor and Jennifer Mann of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.)

Photo: Protesters yell at police protecting the perimeter of a scene on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014 where teenager was fatally shot by a police officer about 90 minutes before at a Mobil gas station on North Hanley Road in Berkeley, Mo. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Thanksgiving Around Ferguson Marked By Quiet In Aftermath Of Chaos

By St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff (TNS)

The relative calm leading up to Thanksgiving continued Thursday with reports of sporadic protests at St. Louis-area big-box stores sparsely populated by shoppers taking advantage of expanded holiday shopping hours.

Police throughout the evening responded to pop-up demonstrations that peacefully interrupted shopping at Target and Walmart stores in St. Louis and St. Charles counties. No overnight arrests were made.

Communicating via Twitter and other social media sites, protesters hopscotched from one big-box store to the next to register discontent with the Michael Brown decision.

The protests on Thursday, with amicable interactions between demonstrators and police, contrasted sharply with the violence that shook Ferguson on Monday.

In Maplewood one officer even consented to a selfie with Deray Mckesson, a Minneapolis educator active in the Ferguson protest movement.

On Friday morning, St. Louis County police reported that neither it nor the Missouri Highway Patrol had made any arrests related to Ferguson protests late Thursday or overnight.

Thursday’s quiet followed an evening of peaceful demonstration in Ferguson — the site of looting and arson after Monday night’s grand jury announcement that Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson would not be criminally indicted in the fatal shooting in August of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

St. Louis County police said two people were arrested in Ferguson on Wednesday night, one for failing to heed an order to disburse and the other on a felony warrant.

The parking lot on South Florissant Road where protesters have gathered all week to voice disapproval of the non-indictment to police and National Guard troops stationed at the Ferguson Police Department was empty of everyone but media crews Thursday night.

There was unrest connected with Ferguson on Thursday in New York, where seven people were arrested for breaking windows at the flagship Macy’s on 34th Street and attempting to disrupt the department store’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
___
Jesse Bogan, David Carson, Joel Currier, Joe Holleman and Steve Giegerich of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Photo: Twenty to thirty protesters marched through the St. Louis Galleria on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, chanting slogans. They stayed in the mall for about fifteen minutes and then left peacefully without confrontation with a large police presence. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Obama Calls For Peace In Wake Of Ferguson Decision

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

ST. LOUIS — President Barack Obama called for peace in the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

“We are a nation built on the rule of law, and so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said from the White House.

Anger, he said, is an understandable reaction. But he said violence is not the answer.

Speaking about an hour after the grand jury decision was announced, the president quoted Michael Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., who asked for protesters to avoid violence.

As the president spoke, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters in Ferguson reported protesters trying to overturn a police car and tear gas being deployed.

Obama also called on law enforcement to use restraint.

“They’ve got a tough job to do,” he said. “As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community.”

The president called for more training for law enforcement to treat people fairly while fighting crime and noted that many Americans feel the law isn’t applied equally.

“We do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over,” he said.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

Hundreds Of Mourners Wait Outside Church For Michael Brown’s Funeral

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Mourners are gathering at a St. Louis church this morning for the funeral of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose shooting death Aug. 9 by a police officer began nearly two weeks of unrest in Ferguson.

The service is set to begin at 10 a.m. at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The church can seat about 2,500 people.

By 8 a.m., about 200 people were lined up outside the church waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m. One of those waiting was Markesha Coleman of East St. Louis. She said she wanted to show her support for Brown’s family.

“We want them to stand strong,” Coleman said. “We want justice for their family and their son. If we stand together, we can change this wrong.”

The Rev. Charles Ewing will deliver the eulogy for his nephew. He said his message is to heal the hurt, not just in Ferguson but the whole nation.

The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to speak, and three White House officials are expected to attend. Black elected leaders will be there too, such as U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis).

Brown was unarmed when he was fatally shot by the officer, Darren Wilson, on a street in Ferguson. According to an autopsy, Brown was shot at least six times. Other details surrounding the incident remain unclear. Police have said that Wilson shot Brown after a struggle over the officer’s handgun. A friend of Brown’s has told authorities that Wilson was the instigator and shot Brown after he raised his arms to surrender.

The shooting of Brown, who is black, by a white officer has fueled racial tensions.

A St. Louis County grand jury began hearing evidence in the case last week. Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch says it could be mid-October before all of the evidence has been presented to the grand jury. The jurors will decide if there is probable cause that a crime was committed and if Wilson, 28, committed it.

Federal investigators are conducting their own probe into the shooting, as well.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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Smaller Protest Forms In Ferguson, Mo.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — A smaller, quieter protest formed in Ferguson on a sultry Wednesday night after other marches converged upon the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, where a grand jury has begun examining the Michael Brown case.

In Ferguson, crowds of barely 200 protesters walked along West Florissant Avenue at Canfield Drive, which has been the scene of protests, frequent disruptions, and occasional looting for 11 consecutive nights. Violence erupted with the burning of a QuikTrip on Aug. 10, one day after Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown, 18, on a street in the nearby Canfield Green apartments.

Wednesday’s steamy heat, with a temperature of 76 and 82 percent humidity even at 11 p.m., appeared to have subdued the gathering, as did a cloudburst that hit shortly after 8 p.m. The crowd grew later, but nothing like previous nights.

Ministers, many wearing orange T-shirts marked with “Clergy United,” mingled through the crowd and stepped in when young protesters appeared to get rowdy.

“When things heat up we don’t mind jumping into the middle of the fuss because we know who watches us,” said Pastor Doug Hollis, of St. Louis, a member of Clergy United.

Police officers stood in clusters, not riot lines, and kept protesters moving. Wednesday night was quieter than Tuesday, which had been less rowdy than Monday night, when police fired tear gas. Police made numerous arrests both nights.

Tension flared briefly Wednesday night when a man and a woman who support Wilson showed up with signs. Many in the crowd shouted at them, and police quickly removed them by squad car. Fortunately, the rain then hit hard.

The first of two marches in Clayton was held in the morning as the grand jury commenced its work. But County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch warned that it wouldn’t finish its task any time soon, despite numerous calls by protesters and some public officials for speedy action.

“Our target date is, hopefully, by the middle of October,” McCulloch said. “I certainly understand the concern, but we won’t rush it through. In the long run people, at least a majority of people, will appreciate the thoroughness.”

Grand juries work in secret. The grand jury meets in McCulloch’s office behind secure doors in the County Justice Center, across South Central Avenue from the St. Louis County Courthouse. Reporters have no ability to see anyone entering or leaving the grand jury room, or how they get to McCulloch’s office from outside the building.

Handling the case before the grand jury are assistant prosecutors Sheila Whirley, who is black, and Kathi Alizadeh, who is white. Alizadeh, with 27 years’ experience, is the regular homicide prosecutor. Whirley has the grand jury assignment and 18 years’ experience.

McCulloch declined to discuss any evidence, but elaborated upon his decision not to rush the investigation.

“Some people say we are rushing to judgment, and others say we are dragging it out,” he said. “We will do this as expeditiously as possible, but certainly not in any haphazard manner.”

Outside the Justice Center, about 50 protesters marched and chanted in the 7800 block of Carondelet Avenue. One held a sign saying, “Recuse McCulloch.”

The only tense moment was when Pattie Canter of Clayton walked to the protest area carrying a sign saying, “My family and friends support Officer Wilson and the police.”

Chanting “What about police rights?” and “Police officers have rights, too,” Canter walked near the protesters, some of whom shouted, “Go home! Go home!”

Replied Canter, “I have constitutional rights. I’m not going anywhere.”

As the crowd became more agitated, police officers escorted her to a police vehicle. Canter told a reporter she was not under arrest. “Why would I be?” she said before being driven away.

On Wednesday evening, a second march of about 100 people returned to the Justice Center after walking eight blocks from Clayton High School. The clergy group that organized the march called for the replacement of McCulloch with a special prosecutor, “an expedited grand jury hearing to indict Officer Darren Wilson,” and an investigation into racial profiling.

Participants sang and carried signs saying “Black lives matter” and “Taser, then talk.” A few officers stood outside the Justice Center when the marchers arrived.

Also endorsing the call for a special prosecutor was Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), who visited on Wednesday the spot where Brown was killed and spoke to Ferguson residents and reporters. Jones backed the call for replacing McCulloch and criticized Gov. Jay Nixon for having been “all over the map” in the 11 days since Brown was killed.

“When you have that many people asking (for a special prosecutor), the best thing to me is to avoid the appearance of impropriety … and appoint a special prosecutor,” Jones told reporters.

A regular critic of Nixon in Jefferson City, Jones said the governor should have gotten involved in the case sooner than he did. “This is the first time an incident of this kind has occurred in this state,” Jones said. In the early days, Jones said, “He himself was not very engaged at all.”

Jones said he listened to residents’ concerns. “A lot of people still have a lot of raw emotions and are concerned,” he said. “They are concerned about justice being truly served.”

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, about 500 worshipers gathered at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica on Lindell Boulevard to pray for Brown and his family. Archbishop Robert Carlson celebrated the Mass. Among those attending was Mayor Francis Slay.

Said Carlson, “We must examine the tragic events taking place in the St. Louis area, seek to understand ‘Why?’ and work toward dismantling systemic racism. Until the causes are addressed and rectified, there will be no change.”

Carlson said the archdiocese would re-establish a human rights commission and work to provide more school scholarships.

County police reported Wednesday that 51 people were arrested between 8 a.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Ferguson protests. Only one of the suspects lives in Ferguson.

Nine of them were from other states, including people from Chicago; New York; Westport, Conn.; Austin, Texas; and Cincinnati. Fourteen suspects are from St. Louis city, three from places in Missouri outside St. Louis city-county, and the remaining 24 from St. Louis County.

Most of them were charged with refusal to disperse, but four were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and three were charged with possession of burglary tools.

Kim Bell, Lilly Fowler, Steve Giegerich, Valerie Schremp Hahn, Joe Holleman, Walker Moskop, Tim O’Neil, Robert Patrick, Nicholas J.C. Pistor, Chuck Raasch, and Leah Thorsen, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this article.

AFP Photo/Joshua Lott

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Missouri Governor: No Curfew Monday Night

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said there will be no curfew Monday night in Ferguson, where a rotating series of official responses to protests have failed to end looting and violence late at night.

The Missouri National Guard, called in early Monday morning by Nixon to help keep order in Ferguson, will be used to protect the police command center, according to the governor’s office. Police officials said the command center was the destination of protesters who were met with tear gas Sunday evening.

“The Guard will concentrate its resources on carrying out this limited mission,” Nixon said in a statement.

He also said, “I join the people of Ferguson, and all Missourians, in strongly condemning the violent acts we saw (Sunday) night, including the firing upon law enforcement officers, the shooting of a civilian, the throwing of Molotov cocktails, looting, and a coordinated attempt to overrun the unified Command Center.

“We are all frustrated and looking for justice to be achieved regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown. As the dual investigations continue into what happened nine days ago at Canfield Green, we must defend Ferguson from these violent interlopers so that the peaceful protests can operate in peace and the search for answers and justice can continue.”

Earlier Monday, Nixon announced that he was activating the National Guard to help restore order in Ferguson after a week of protests that have resulted in looting and violence some nights.

Missouri governors have mustered National Guard soldiers to the St. Louis area for floods, heat waves and even a heavy snowstorm, but not street violence, at least not since World War II. In April 1968, then-Gov. Warren E. Hearnes sent more than 1,500 National Guard soldiers to Kansas City to assist police during a riot that broke out shortly after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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National Guard To Help Restore Calm In Ferguson

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — Just moments after Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson announced early Monday that new security steps were planned in Ferguson that would not include National Guard troops, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he was activating those forces.

“Given these deliberate, coordinated, and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard to assist Colonel Ron Replogle and the Unified Command in restoring peace and order to this community.” the governor’s executive order said.

At his press conference after another night of violent clashes with protesters, Johnson said new security steps were planned but declined to detail them. In response to one of the few questions that were allowed, he said those plans were still in flux but did not include bringing in National Guard troops.

Johnson said the additional measures being put in place had been formulated in talks between himself, Nixon, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, and Replogle, who is in charge of the Highway Patrol.

Johnson, who was put in control of security on the North County city’s streets last week, blamed a small group of agitators for the night’s violence that included shootings, molotov cocktails, and lootings. He said he believed those who instigated the violence came to what had been a peaceful protest determined to “provoke a response.”

Other law enforcement authorities said three people had been injured in shootings during the night. None of the shootings involved officers, authorities said. Police said seven or eight people were arrested on charges of failing to disperse.

Johnson detailed a night of violence that began about 8:25 with a shooting among the protesters. Next, he said, shots were fired at and molotov cocktails thrown at officers and businesses were looted.

At one point, he said, a McDonald’s was overrun by protesters and the workers inside had to take shelter.

“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate our response,” Johnson said, referring to officers’ push to clear the streets hours before the midnight curfew with measures that included the use of tear gas.

Replogle, interviewed about 2:30 a.m. on CNN, said of the decision to call in the National Guard: “We need some help.”

He said larger and larger groups of protesters have been showing up on the streets of Ferguson since the fatal shooting last weekend of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer.

Replogle said the protesters who are resorting to violence “aren’t residents of this city, we know that.”

By 6 o’clock Monday morning, traffic was moving in front of the looted Dellwood Market and the McDonalds restaurant, whose broken windows were not yet cleaned up or boarded up. Employees of the restaurant began showing up before dawn and said they hoped to have the restaurant open for business by 7 a.m.’

Some protesters were on the scene, including Mauricelm-Lei Millere, 41, of Washington, D.C. He said he is with the New Black Panther Party.

Millere said any trouble was started by “provocateurs who are trying to destroy this.”

Malik Rhasan, 42, of Atlanta, said he came to Ferguson under the belief that the St. Louis suburb was a town on fire. “I was proud of the youth last night, and very disappointed by the police,” Rhasan said.

Mayor Reggie Jones of Dellwood said the market on Chambers Road wasn’t the only city business hit; he’s checking a pizza store and auto parts store.

“Our city isn’t included in this, but we’ve been dragged into it because we are so close,” he said.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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Ferguson Chief Says Officer Didn’t Know Michael Brown Was Suspect In Robbery

FERGUSON, Mo. — The officer who shot Ferguson teen Michael Brown stopped Brown and another teen because they were walking in the street, not because of a robbery a few minutes earlier, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Friday afternoon.

Jackson said Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were suspects in the robbery, but the officer wasn’t aware of that. The officer, Darren Wilson, knew there had been a robbery but did not know that Brown and Johnson might be suspects.

“The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery,” Jackson said in a news conference shortly after 2 p.m. “(The robbery) had nothing to do with the stop… They (Brown and Johnson) were walking down the street blocking traffic, that was it.”

Jackson also addressed concerns about his release of information about the robbery at the same time he released the name of the officer at a press conference Friday morning.

Jackson said he released the security video from the liquor store because news organizations had been requesting it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Asked by reporters why he released the tape, he said, “Because I had to. Too many people put in (freedom of information) requests for it.”

Told of the family’s angry reaction to the release, he said, “First, my heart goes out to the family. I can’t imagine what they are going through. We have given you everything that we have now… There is nothing else we have got.”

Jackson said the Wilson worked for the Jennings Police Department for two years before joining the Ferguson force four years ago. He called Wilson “a gentle, quiet man, a distinguished officer.” For Wilson, Jackson said, the shooting “is absolutely devastating. He never intended for any of this to happen.”

Photo: Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Police: Brown Was Suspect In Robbery Before He Was Killed

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — A report released Friday by Ferguson, Mo., police identifies Michael Brown as a suspect in a robbery at a convenience store a short time before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Ferguson authorities have identified Darren Wilson as the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager last Saturday. Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson released the officer’s name Friday morning. Wilson has been an officer for six years and has had no disciplinary action taken against him in the past, Jackson said.

Brown, 18, was shot multiple times Saturday afternoon.

Documents that Jackson released Friday in response to Sunshine Law requests name Brown as a suspect in the robbery of a store in which cigars were taken. The store name and address is redacted from the documents, but it was not a QuikTrip that has become ground zero of protests.

Also named as a suspect in the robbery is Dorian Johnson, 22, a man who has said he was with Brown when he was shot.

The document release includes surveillance images of the robbery, showing an employee being attacked.

An unidentified employee had just come out of the restroom and come to the counter when she observed Brown telling a clerk he wanted several boxes of cigars, the reports say. The names of two employees have been redacted from the report:

“As (redacted) was placing the boxes on the counter, Brown grabbed a box of Swisher Sweets cigars and handed them to Johnson who was standing behind Brown. (Redacted) witnessed (redacted) tell Brown that he had to pay for those cigars first. That is when Brown reached across the counter and grabbed numerous packs of Swisher Sweets and turned to leave the store. (Redacted) then calls ‘911.’ Meanwhile (redacted) comes out from behind the counter and attempts to stop Brown from leaving. According to (redacted), (redacted) was trying to lock the door until Brown returned the merchandise to him. That is when Brown grabbed (redacted) by the shirt and forcefully pushed him back in to a display rack. (Redacted) backed away and Brown and Johnson exited the store with the cigars.”

In his press conference, Jackson did not say Brown was a suspect in the robbery and did not say how that information connects to the Brown shooting investigation. The documents he released do name Brown and Johnson as suspects.

He said he had been in touch with a contact for Brown’s family before releasing the information.

Some citizens attended the press conference and were upset Jackson spoke about a robbery. Chants of “No justice, no peace,” broke out from some.

“I am incensed,” said Laura Keys, 50, of St. Louis. “I can’t believe this is the tactic they are using, bringing up a robbery to make the victim look like he was the person who created this whole mess. Where’s the footage?”

Brown, a 2014 graduate of Normandy High School, was reportedly due to start classes at Vatterott College on Monday. His mother, Lesley McSpadden, said her son was walking to his grandmother’s when he was gunned down.

Brown’s death prompted almost immediate protests in Ferguson, including Sunday night demonstrations that led to rioting and looting. Protesters looted and then set fire to a QuikTrip store and vandalized others in the area near where Brown was killed.

Demonstrations and protests escalated, reaching a climax on Wednesday night when St. Louis County officers in full riot gear responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored vehicles. About a dozen people were arrested, including two national reporters and a St. Louis alderman.

That led to Thursday’s change in direction — when Gov. Jay Nixon put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of the security in Ferguson and removed St. Louis County police.

The change was dramatic and immediate, as Thursday night’s police presence lacked gas masks, smoke bombs, and military gear. Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the patrol officer put in charge, walked and talked with protesters, exchanging hugs and answering questions.
___

POLICE TIMELINE OF FATAL SHOOTING
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson described events before the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday, saying Officer Darren Wilson was at a sick call from 11:48 a.m. to about noon. An ambulance was also at that scene.

At 11:51 a.m. a 911 caller reported a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, Jackson said. He did not name the store. A brief description went out a minute later.

A different officer went to the convenience store and a more detailed description went out a short time later. The robbery suspect was said to be heading toward the QuikTrip in Ferguson.

Wilson left the sick call and encountered Michael Brown at 12:01 p.m. Sometime between then and 12:04 p.m., when a second officer arrived at the scene, Brown was fatally shot by Wilson.

A supervisor arrived at 12:05 p.m., and the ambulance that had been at the nearby sick call came to the scene “immediately following the shooting,” to “assess Michael Brown,” Jackson said.

Jackson said further information about the actual shooting would have to come from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who has declined to release information now. Jackson left his press conference without taking questions.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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St. Louis Alderman Released From Jail After Arrest During Ferguson Protest

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — St. Louis Alderman Antonio French emerged Thursday morning from a night in jail after his arrest at the Ferguson protests to say that the police officers’ “heavy-handed” approach on the streets is making the situation worse.

French said he has no documentation that says why he was arrested, and that he was released about 7 a.m. today without having to post any bail.

No police spokesman was available to explain why French was arrested.

French said he should never have been locked up, nor should the dozen or so others at the jail overnight.

“Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers,” he said. “They rounded up the wrong people … reverends, young people organizing the peace effort.”

Police arrested about a dozen people Wednesday night, including French and two national reporters. Police used tear gas and sonic cannons to disperse the crowds. Today, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to visit Ferguson in the wake of the growing protests.

As he walked out of the Ferguson Jail this morning, French wore his signature oxford button-down shirt — slightly wrinkled from sleeping in it on a jail cot, and with a burnt orange color on the shoulder from where a fellow inmate had wiped his eyes from the burning tear gas.

French talked with reporters about his experience. He said he was near the burned-out QuikTrip at about 9 p.m. Wednesday when police in riot gear ordered protesters to disperse.

“Police had just given a final warning to disperse and released smoke bombs, people scattered and ran,” French said. “Police started to move forward with riot gear and tear gas started to come.”

“I moved away when it looked like they were throwing what I thought was tear gas … it turned out to be smoke bombs,” French added. “I realized the best place (to be was in my) car with the windows rolled up. That’s where I was.”

When a reporter asked French today how he went from being in his car to being arrested, he said: “They open your door and drag you out.”

“They just rounded up anybody they could see,” he said.

He had no complaints about the way the officer treated him, other than how securely the officer wrapped his wrist with the plastic handcuffs.

“I don’t think I was mistreated,” he said. “The roughest things were those zip ties … pretty tight.”

He said he was treated well inside the jail and offered a honey bun at 6 a.m. for breakfast, which he declined. He was told he’d be held 24 hours on a charge of unlawful assembly, but then he was inexplicably released without bail or any paperwork at 7 a.m.

French is in his first term as alderman of the 21st Ward in St. Louis. His ward includes the Mark Twain, Penrose, and O’Fallon neighborhoods. After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson on Saturday afternoon, French has been attending protests and rallies, posting updates on social media.

French said he will continue to document the protests and police response as long as the protesters are on the streets. He wasn’t able to post anything for the nine hours he was in jail because they took his phone from him. At 8 a.m., French said he was ready to log back in. “I’ve gotta find a charger somewhere,” he joked.

He said he was also heading to an ATM to get cash to bail out two of his staffers who were arrested after being pulled from their cars.
“In an American city, people are being tear-gassed and snipers are pointing rifles at them,” he said. “Everybody should be upset … heavy-handed police approach is actually making the situation worse.

“Before they arrived heavy-handedly, it was a peaceful situation.”

French said the city is wrong to try to limit protests to daylight-only.

“We have a right to protest 24 hours a day,” French said. “Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9 p.m.” — Kim Bell, 7:25 a.m. Thursday

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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Prosecutor Says Probe Of Fatal Missouri Police Shooting Needs To Take Its Course

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — Law enforcement officials on Wednesday asked for patience to allow the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown to take its course as tension over the Missouri teenager’s death continued for a fifth straight day.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said his office will take as much time as necessary to review circumstances that led a Ferguson police officer to fatally shoot the 18-year-old Brown on a street Saturday afternoon.

“The timeline on this is there is no timeline,” McCulloch told an afternoon news conference. “We will do this as expeditiously as possible. But we won’t rush.”

Resisting pressure from street demonstrators and public officials for answers that show why the unidentified officer confronted Brown and a companion shortly after noon on Saturday, McCulloch said the details may not emerge until the process of collecting evidence and presenting it to the grand jury is complete.

“I know that’s not the answer anybody wants to hear at this point,” he said. “Everybody wants to know what happened.”

McCulloch called the problem twofold. First, he said, ethical rules prevent prosecutors from disseminating the physical evidence. He also said he won’t do anything to corrupt the integrity of the investigation.

In response to a reporter’s question, McCulloch said it will certainly take more than two weeks to complete the investigation. He offered no specific estimate of the timetable. He cited a heavy volume of information that is being gathered in the case.

“We want to test the veracity and accuracy of anybody who comes to us,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch said a lot of information has come forward through social media, “some of it good, some of it bad.”

He stressed that the medical examiner’s report, 911 tapes, and other investigative material will be withheld at this point.

One new detail of Saturday’s shooting did emerge Wednesday when Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson in another news conference said the officer who shot Brown suffered facial injuries and was taken to a hospital.

Jackson also acknowledged that mending the strained relationship between his department and the African-American community is imperative for the city and region to move ahead following nearly a week of outrage, violence, and looting.

“We have always had real good relations with all of the neighborhood associations,” Jackson said. “Apparently, there’s been this undertow that now has bubbled to the surface, and it’s our first priority to address it, to fix what’s wrong.”

The first step, he added, is working with the community relations office on race relations that the U.S. Justice Department has dispatched to Ferguson.

The chief defended the racial makeup of the Ferguson department. Three of the agency’s 52 officers are African-American in a community where two-thirds of the population is black.

Jackson said he has worked to improve the diversity of the police department, adding it is a “constant struggle to hire and retain personnel.”

In the past few years, Jackson said, he has tried not only to recruit but improve quality of life in the department, including pay levels, to retain officers longer.

The comments from law enforcement in a week that has seen forums, prayer vigils, and a clergy-led parade Wednesday that passed many of the looted West Florissant Avenue businesses did little to quell the outrage spawned by Brown’s death.

As has been the case since Monday, the parking lot of a QuikTrip looted and burned Sunday evening has been the epicenter of hostility between protesters and police.

The animosity was for the most part verbal until a thrown bottle prompted police to fire smoke bombs at the crowd shortly before 9 p.m.

When police then ordered demonstrators to evacuate the area or face arrest the protesters responded that “we are not going anywhere.”

Police a short time later chased protesters into nearby neighborhoods after dispersing the crowd for the third straight night with tear gas grenades.

On Wednesday police also used piercing sound devices to scatter the crowd.

As they have since Saturday, demonstrators throughout the evening taunted and threatened police.

“If I’m going to go, I’m taking one of you with me,” warned one demonstrator.

Another shouted, “We’re not dogs, so what the hell you’ve got those whipping sticks for? Because you want to whip us like dogs.”

A county police tactical operations armored vehicle was deployed at the demonstration site for most of the night.

Protected by body armor, police sat atop the vehicle methodically fitting high-caliber automatic weapons into tripods, which were then trained on the crowd.

“You are being ordered to leave now!” police announced frequently through a public address system. “If you don’t leave peacefully there will be arrests.”

The crowd ignored the demand until the tear gas was fired.

As of mid-evening there were no reports of gunfire.

Prosecutors filed felony charges Wednesday against a man shot by police in a confrontation earlier in the day near the scene of the protests.

Esrail Britton, 19, was charged with second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action. He remained hospitalized, and earlier in the day was reported to be in critical condition.

Officials said they have two addresses for Britton, both of them vacant dwellings in the St. Louis area.

The shooting occurred about 1 a.m. at West Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road, in unincorporated St. Louis County, as county police responded to a report of four of five men with masks and shotguns in an area where shots were heard.

Wesley Lowery, a reporter with The Washington Post, was arrested Wednesday evening along with Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, according to a Twitter post by Lowery.

He wrote that police came into the McDonald’s on West Florissant Road where the two were working, and tried “to kick everyone out.”

“Officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonald’s quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them,” he tweeted.

“Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of,” he wrote.

He said that he was detained, booked, “given answers to no questions. Then just let out.”

Reilly tweeted that a SWAT team invaded the McDonald’s where he was working and recharging his phone, and asked for identification when he took a photo. They tried to kick everyone out, he wrote. He wrote that he was “assaulted” by an officer.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/David Carson

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