FERGUSON (AFP/REUTERS) - Ferguson police have fired tear gas to disperse protesters on Monday after a white policeman escaped charges for shooting dead a black teenager, even as US president Barack Obama has urged police to show "restraint".
Gunshots were heard and bottles were thrown as anger rippled through a crowd outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St Louis after authorities on Monday announced that a grand jury voted not to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, in the August shooting death of the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Whistles pierced the air as some of the hundreds of protesters tried to keep the peace, shouting, “Don’t run, don’t run.”
Police who formed a wall of clear riot shields outside the precinct were pelted with bottles and cans as the crowd surged up and down the street immediately after the grand jury verdict was delivered.
“Murderers, you’re nothing but murderers,” the crowd shouted. One woman, speaking through a megaphone said, “Stinking murderers.”
Not far from the stretch of Ferguson that saw the worst of the rioting after Brown’s fatal shooting in August, dozens of police and military vehicles were poised for possible mass arrests.
“They need to feel the pain these mothers feel at the (expletive) cemetery,” shouted Paulette Wilkes, 40, a teacher’s assistant who was in the crowd at the police department.
The family of Brown said they were "profoundly disappointed" by a grand jury's decision not to charge the white police officer who killed him, but called for calm.
"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions," the Brown family said in a statement.
"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change."
Mr Obama urged calm on Monday in a press conference held shortly after the grand jury verdict.
“I join Michael (Brown)’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully,” Mr Obama told reporters. “I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.”
Missouri prosecutor Bob McCulloch acknowledged on Monday that the grand jury decision would not be accepted by some people.
But he said it was a good decision to take the case to the grand jury to decide whether any charges were warranted in the Aug 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, and added that the grand jury’s members had “poured their hearts and souls into this.”
But McCulloch declined to say if the jury’s decision was unanimous, noting that grand jury proceedings are completely secret and that only the jury members themselves know the details of the proceedings.
McCulloch described a tangled mass of conflicting testimony from 60 witnesses about what happened during the incident that led to Brown’s death, but said much of it did not square with the physical evidence.
“Many of the same witnesses acknowledged that they did not see the shooting,” McCulloch said. “The grand jury worked tirelessly to examine and reexamine the testimony of all the witnesses and all the physical evidence.”
McCulloch said he met with the jurors on Monday after they reached their decision and said the proceedings had been“draining” for them.
He added that the federal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.