ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tensions were high Friday as the St. Louis region prepared for what's expected to be four days of large-scale protests and marches over the Michael Brown shooting — events being held in the wake of another fatal police shooting of a black 18-year-old.
Several civil rights organizations are joining together to host protests through Monday. It started with a Friday afternoon rally outside St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office. A march through downtown St. Louis is planned for Saturday.
Protesters will continue calling for charges against Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson officer who shot the unarmed Brown on Aug. 9 in the St. Louis suburb. A state grand jury is hearing evidence but not expected to decide until next month. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.
Black leaders in St. Louis also want the Justice Department to investigate the fatal shooting of Vonderrit D. Myers by a white St. Louis officer on Wednesday night. Police say Myers shot at the officer, but Myers' parents say he was unarmed. The officer's name has not been released.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said police are prepared for the protests.
"These groups come together for the right reasons — to have their voices heard," Dotson said. "It's our job as law enforcement, regardless of the message, to protect them. It's when the agitators come in to try and take advantage of the stage that's been created that we have problems."
Brown's parents have released a statement about the protests:
"While we respect every citizen's right to free expression, it is our hope that those coming to Ferguson to protest the shooting of our son this weekend do so peacefully and lawfully.
We understand first-hand the powerless frustration felt by people of all walks of life regarding their interactions with law enforcement. And for that reason, as Michael Brown's parents, we ask that those coming to show support for our son do so within the law."
Lesley McSpadden & Michael Brown, Sr.
Hundreds of people gathered late Thursday to protest Myers' death. At one point officers used pepper spray to force the crowd back. St. Louis police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said one officer was struck in the arm by a brick someone threw. Eight protesters were arrested, including five for unlawful assembly.
"I want it to be a peaceful, yet assertive protest this weekend," Dotson said. "So that voices are heard."
St. Louis Police also said they will be encrypting their scanner traffic. Authorities said the move is being made because protesters were listening to scanner traffic on app and tracking police movements.
The officer was off-duty and working neighborhood patrol for the private firm GCI Security when shooting Myers. Jackson said he was wearing his police uniform and carrying his department-issued weapon.
Dotson said the officer's suspicion was aroused when Myers and two other males started to run but stopped. Once the officer made a U-turn, the three decided to run.
The officer chased them, and he and Myers got into a physical altercation. Dotson said Myers pointed a gun at the officer and began shooting.
Ballistic evidence showed Myers fired three shots before his gun jammed, Dotson said. Police said they recovered the 9 mm gun, which was reported stolen on Sept. 26.
The officer responded by firing off 17 rounds, the chief said. Preliminary autopsy results show a shot to the head killed Myers.
Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said an assistant U.S. attorney will work with her office so that both state and federal laws can be reviewed. She offered no timeline on the investigation.
Online court documents show that Myers was free on bond when he was killed. He had been charged with the unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor resisting arrest in June.
Associated Press journalist Jeff Roberson contributed to this report.