August 27, 2014 / 1:10 AM / 6 years ago

Police presence drawing down in Ferguson, Missouri

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Authorities on Wednesday disbanded what had been a command center in Ferguson, Missouri, for law enforcement responding to sometimes violent protests over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (R) and St. Louis County Police Department Chief Jon Belmar are photographed after giving a news conference at the St. Louis County Police Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, August 27, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Officers loaded up the remaining fire trucks and police vans that were part of the temporary law enforcement headquarters in a strip mall parking lot, rolling out after several days of subdued demonstrations.

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who has led the response, told a news conference the Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police officers would continue to patrol, but the force had been substantially reduced.

“People are communicating with each other and it is already leading to change, not just in Ferguson but across our whole region,” Johnson said.

Boarded-up stores were the only sign of the turmoil along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, which had been the site of clashes between demonstrators and police that led to scores of arrests after the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9.

A group of men and women from the St. Louis Youth Build organization handed out flyers on Wednesday in the apartment complex where Brown had lived, trying to recruit youths for construction and carpentry apprenticeships.

“Now people are standing up about something that happens all the time,” Jermaine Brown, 40, who works for Youth Build, said of the unrest.

Brown’s death focused global attention on the state of race relations in the United States and evoked memories of other racially charged cases, including the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, in Florida in 2012.

Demonstrators have demanded the arrest of officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, and seek changes in Ferguson where the majority of residents are black and most elected officials and police are white.

Wilson has been put on paid leave and is in hiding. His supporters have raised about $414,000 for potential legal fees, relocation and living expenses, fundraising administrators said.

On the other side, $280,000 has been raised for Brown’s family.

A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence about the shooting and the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.

Police have said Brown struggled with Wilson, who shot and killed him. But some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Additional reporting by Adrees Latif and Brendan O'Brien; Writing by Eric Johnson and David Bailey; Editing by Peter Cooney

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