A St. Louis-area police officer was suspended indefinitely on
Wednesday for pointing a semi-automatic assault rifle at a peaceful
demonstrator as tensions flared during protests over the Aug. 9
police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.
The incident just before midnight on Tuesday punctuated the 11th
straight night of racially charged demonstrations in the St. Louis
suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old,
was slain by a white police officer.
No one was hurt in the gun-pointing confrontation, but the incident
underscored what many have criticized as heavy-handed and
unprofessional police tactics that have helped stoke continuing
According to an official account from the St. Louis County Police
Department, an unnamed policeman from the neighboring community of
St. Ann leveled his weapon at a Ferguson protester "after a verbal
exchange," and that a superior county officer, a sergeant, quickly
The sergeant "immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower
the weapon and escorting him away from the area," a statement from
the county department said.
In video footage of the episode widely circulated on social media,
the white officer in question, wide-eyed and agitated, is seen
pointing his rifle at numerous demonstrators and members of the
At one point, he is heard yelling, "I will fucking kill you, get
back, get back," before the sergeant calmly steps in to defuse the
situation, orders him to lower the weapon and leads him away from
"The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate,
and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily to keep the
peace," the police statement said.
It said the officer in question had been relieved of duty and
suspended indefinitely but gave no further details of any
investigation or discipline he might face.
In an unrelated videotaped confrontation from earlier in the day in
St. Louis that also went viral, police shot and killed a 23-year-old
black man who they said brandished a knife at officers and yelled at
them to "shoot me now, kill me."
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The two officers, who were placed on administrative leave pending an
investigation, opened fire after the man refused repeated orders to
drop his weapon, police said.
The incident occurred a few miles from the scene of the protests in
Ferguson near a convenience store where the man had snatched some
drinks and snacks before police were called.
Footage of that incident, in which the man is seen moving toward
police with his arms downward after exhorting them to shoot, led
some observers to question why officers resorted to deadly force
rather than use a Taser stun gun to subdue him.
"There are other ways to stop people if you feel you are in danger
than shooting them," said Linda Gladson, 63, a white resident of St.
Louis who has spent 20 years as an urban planner in the city.
"We need to stop using lethal force as a first option," she said,
standing outside the St. Louis County Justice Center on Wednesday
holding a homemade sign that read: "Taser Then Talk!!!"
The fatal shooting sparked concerns about a possible escalation of
public anger in the aftermath of the Brown slaying, but as of late
on Wednesday had yet to measurably add to the overall level of
prevailing tension in the area.
(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman from Los Angeles;
Editing by Nick Macfie)
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