(Reuters) - The shooting death of a black teenager that sparked anger in a St. Louis community was started by a fight between the victim and an officer in a squad car that quickly escalated, police said on Sunday.
Police said Michael Brown, 18, physically assaulted the officer from the Ferguson police, who then fired multiple shots at Brown after he left the car on Saturday. The officer, who was not identified, is a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told a news conference.
“It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon,” Belmar told reporters as voices from demonstrators shouting outside the building could be heard.
Belmar said it appeared one shot was fired during the struggle in the police car.
A crowd of some 200 people gathered at the site of the shooting on Saturday, some of them shouting “kill the police” and yelling profanities, a county police spokesman said.
“Emotions were running very high,” Belmar said.
St. Louis County police said Brown was unarmed and they would turn over investigation findings of what happened in Ferguson, northwest of St. Louis, to local prosecutors.
Brown’s mother told local TV broadcaster KSDK that her son was a good child getting ready to go to college and was visiting his grandmother when the incident took place.
“He didn’t bother nobody,” she said. “They told me how many times my son was shot - eight,” she added, and then directed her comments at police.
“You not God. You not decide you are going to take somebody from her,” she said in an interview with KSDK.
The St Louis County branch of the civil rights group NAACP has said it wants the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the case, with many in the community telling media that race played a factor in the shooting.
The race of the officer was not released.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Kervin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Stephen Powell