By Brandie Piper and Yamiche Alcindor
Published Aug. 17, 2014 on USAToday.com. A version of this story was published on the front page of USA Today’s print edition Aug. 18.
FERGUSON, Mo. — Protests in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown continued Sunday as police for the second night imposed a curfew on this St. Louis suburb. Meanwhile, a preliminary autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, but the circumstances of his death remained unclear.
Late Sunday, more than two hours before a second midnight curfew was set to begin, police fired tear gas at hundreds of angry protesters who were marching down the town’s main thoroughfare toward a police command center.
County police tweeted that protesters were throwing “Molotov cocktails” at police, but protesters, including Renita Lamkin, a pastor who has been acting as a peacekeeper, said no one threw Molotov cocktails.
“That is not true,” she said. Meanwhile, a police announcer told the crowd, “This is no longer a peaceful protest. You must leave the area.”
But protesters moving away from police faced a greater threat: gunshots coming from the other direction. It is unclear who fired the reported gunshots.
One protester, Keshonda James, 35, was driving away from police when a canister of tear gas shattered her windshield. The exploding glass hit her left arm, which was later bandaged by a fellow protester.
“Glass exploded everywhere. This isn’t cool. I’m not down here looting,” James said.
Late Sunday, The New York Times reported that a private autopsy requested by Brown’s family found that he was shot at least six times, including four times in the right arm and twice in the head. All of the shots, the Times reported, were fired from Brown’s front — a finding that could contradict a witness statement indicating that Brown was hit as he ran away from police.
Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request, the Times said. In an interview, he noted that one of the shots appeared to have struck Brown on the top of his head, but that it wasn’t immediately clear what that signified.
“It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer,” Baden said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declined Sunday to say when he expects the curfew to end or whether it would be extended further.
“We’d like to see it ratcheted down,” Nixon said. “What we’d like to see, that will be judged by the community.” Speaking on CNN, Nixon said he was “heartened” by the response to the curfew early Sunday.
At a rally Sunday afternoon, the civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old shot to death in Sanford, Fla., in 2012, told a crowd that police are trying to assassinate Brown’s character.
On Friday, when police named Officer Darren Wilson as the officer who shot Brown, they also released a surveillance video that appears to show Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store and roughing up the clerk a few minutes before the fatal confrontation.
“They tried it with Trayvon, and now they are trying it with Michael,” Benjamin Crump said. “We know that this was an execution.” He noted that when the officer fired, witnesses say, Brown had his hands raised above his head.
“This means ‘Surrender! Don’t shoot!’ And the most hardened criminals in history, when they put their hands up, we didn’t execute them,” Crump said.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton told the crowd that protests would continue.
“We are not going to shut up,” he said. “We are going to come together and have a real peace.”
He told protesters not to loot in Brown’s name. “There’s a difference between an activist and a thug,” Sharpton said.
Donations for Brown’s family poured in at the rally. Speakers announced that all three of Brown’s siblings would receive full college scholarships. TV’s Judge Greg Mathis announced that he would give the family $10,000. Sharpton said his National Action Network would pay for Brown’s funeral. He encouraged others to give the family money. Donors filled several large baskets with cash. Sharpton said the money would go directly to the family.
He announced that a class-action lawsuit would be filed on behalf of Ferguson protesters who were tear-gassed while demonstrating and others who were injured. Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice and members of the New Black Panther Party have said they would file a lawsuit because they believe protesters’ civil rights had been violated.
At the rally, Ron Johnson, the Missouri Highway Patrol captain at the head of security here, said protesters “need to pray. We need to thank Mike for his life. We need to thank him for the change that he is going to make.”
Johnson told an animated crowd that Brown’s violent death at the hands of police on Aug. 9 “is going to make it for our sons so that they can be better black men. He’s going to make it better for our daughters so they can be better black women, better for me so I can be a better black father. And we know they’re going to make our mamas even better than they are today.”
Johnson, who is African-American and lives in nearby Florissant, told the crowd, “This is my neighborhood. You are my family, you are my friends, and I am you. And I will stand and protect you. I will protect your right to protest.”
He said that when the protests are over, “I’m going to go in my son’s room — my black son, who wears his pants sagging, wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms — but that’s my baby.” The crowd cheered loudly.
About 150 people rallied in downtown St. Louis on Sunday evening in support of Wilson, the officer who shot Brown. Passersby honked and cheered in support.
The Justice Department said Sunday that it would arrange for an independent autopsy of Brown’s body “due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family.”
The St. Louis County medical examiner’s autopsy concluded that Brown died of gunshot wounds, but other details have not been released.
During protests after the rally, 44-year-old LaDonna Hurd said she brought her two daughters Layla Green, 7, and Kentavia Taylor, 16, from their home in Belleville, Ill., about 25 minutes away.
“I feel like they need to be part of this,” Hurd said. “They need to know prejudices are still there.”
She said she brought her daughters to experience the protests firsthand because she wanted them to know that the struggles and issues that motivated Martin Luther King remain and must be challenged.
“I feel like in numbers we can get things done,” she said. “This is history.”
Contributing: Greg Toppo in Ellicott City, Md. Piper reports for KSDK TV in St.Louis.