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Vigil For Mo. Teen Killed By Police Officer Spirals Into Violence


In a suburb of St. Louis on Saturday afternoon a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. His name was Michael Brown. He was 18 years old, getting ready to start college. We don't know all the details of the incident. We're still learning about what might have provoked the officer to act. What we do know is that the city of Ferguson, Missouri is outraged. People in the predominately African-American community gathered last night for a peaceful candlelight vigil and a protest.


PROTESTERS: Hands up, don't shoot. Hands up, don't shoot.

GREENE: This gathering quickly turned violent as people confronted police. Let's get the latest now from St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann, who has been covering this story and she was there at that protest. Rachel, good morning.

RACHEL LIPPMANN, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So let's begin with what began all of this on Saturday afternoon.

LIPPMANN: Well, David, on Saturday afternoon, a police officer with the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed an unarmed, black 18-year-old named Michael Brown. An outside agency - the St. Louis County Police - is investigating and what they found out so far is that Brown and another individual allegedly assaulted the officer as he was trying to get out of his police car. There was, allegedly, a struggle for the gun. A shot went off inside that vehicle, although Brown was shot multiple times outside of the car.

GREENE: And this is the information we're getting from the police at this point so...

LIPPMANN: That's the agency that's investigating the shooting, yes.

GREENE: What do we know about this young man, Michael Brown?

LIPPMANN: His nickname was Mike Mike. He was called a gentle giant by many of the people who knew him, who said fighting wouldn't have been in his nature and the violence that erupted in his name wouldn't have been in his nature. He was scheduled to start at a local technical college this week.

GREENE: And let's move now to the reaction from this community, which sounds like it began peacefully but didn't stay that way.

LIPPMANN: There's been a series of rallies in the Ferguson community protesting this shooting and they've all been very loud, very boisterous but very peaceful. And tonight started out the same way. A big crowd had gathered at the apartment complex near where Michael Brown was shot. They were holding candles demanding justice. People were loud and clearly frustrated. There were signs directing vulgarities at the cops and one teenager was holding up a sign that read, I Am Unarmed Am I Next? I even saw a few T-shirts referencing Trayvon Martin. And as the side note, the attorney who represented Trayvon's family is now agreeing to help represent the family of Mike Brown, here in St. Louis.

GREENE: So how violent did things get?

LIPPMANN: There were gunshots fired. There definitely gunshots fired. There was looting. The epicenter of it was a QuikTrip, it's a gas station convenience store here in St. Louis, about a half-mile from the shooting site. People just broke the windows, took whatever they could; beer, liquor, food, cigarettes. People were just pumping free gas. Graffiti began to show up on the walls and on traffic dividers. That QuikTrip later burned to the ground. I didn't see that personally, but there were photos and video all over social media, including by some professional journalists and photographers in the area.

And then the looting just began spreading. It got to an area of five miles by five miles.

TV stations were saying, cars would pull up with altered license plates and take what they could and circle out before the cops could get there.

GREENE: Rachel Lippmann, has the family of Michael Brown said anything to people who are out there protesting in reaction to this?

LIPPMANN: We did not talk to them directly. But a spokesperson for the family told a local television station just basically to people - go home; stop this violence, you're not helping anything. Doesn't help the situation, it doesn't help to remember Michael.

And he said that the family is not going to be endorsing any more of these rallies if this is what they end up turning into.

GREENE: And you say this investigation's of course just starting. Tell us what happens now.

LIPPMANN: Well, the investigation by the county police into the shooting is ongoing. And you now have the investigation into the looting. Businesses will now have to come and figure out their losses, which I'm sure are going to total into the millions.

GREENE: All right. That's Rachel Lippmann. She's with St. Louis Public Radio, speaking to us about the aftermath of a police shooting that's left an unarmed, black teenager dead over the weekend outside St. Louis.

Rachel, thanks very much.

LIPPMANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

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