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Man charged with assault after being shot by police near protest in Ferguson

Protesters and police after shooting on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Protesters and police after shooting on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death

Updated as of Mon., August 10, 2015 at 3:45 p.m. with father's statement, originally updated at 1 p.m.

The man who St. Louis County Police say was shot by detectives after he fired on them Sunday night near protests in Ferguson has been identified as Tyrone Harris, 18, of Northwoods, according to the police department.

Harris has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement in the first degree, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of discharging or shooting a firearm at a motor vehicle. A cash only bond has been set at $250,000.

Police said Harris remains in critical condition at a local hospital. 

County police released the following details from a report from Detective Matthew Wilson:

On August 9, 2015 at approximately 11:23 p.m. near 9200 West Florissant Avenue, gunfire is exchanged between two groups of people.  The defendant is observed by St. Louis County Police officers running across West Florissant and firing a handgun.  The officers drive to the defendant's location and the defendant fires at least one shot into the officers' vehicle.  Officers return fire, exit their vehicle and chase after the defendant.  Defendant turns and points his weapon at the officers who then fire their weapons, wounding the defendant.  A 9mm Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol was recovered next to the defendant.

But Harris' father disputes the police account of the shooting, telling The Associated Press that it is a "bunch of lies."Tyrone Harris Sr. said his son was caught in a dispute between two groups, was unarmed, and was "running for his life" when he was shot eight to 12 times by police. 

Our original story:

A man is in critical condition after exchanging gunfire with St. Louis County police near a protest on West Florissant Avenue late Sunday night.

St. Louis County police said two groups of people exchanged gunfire near a tense gathering to mark the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death. About 100 demonstrators, media and police officers took cover and ran from the source of the shots. 

"It's happening all over again. We need to stop. Too much has been going on, too many people getting murdered already," said Roberta Lynch, who ran from the shots clutching a cane. "This is senseless." 

St. Louis County police said in a statement that plainclothes detectives spotted the young black man, who was a suspect in the shooting, running across the parking lot of a former Ponderosa Steakhouse at 9200 West Florissant. When detectives activated their lights and drove toward the man, police said, he allegedly turned and fired at them, striking the police car numerous times. A foot chase ensued, during which time the man and police allegedly exchanged fire. The man was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. Police said they recovered a stolen weapon at the scene.

A young woman collapses in grief after hearing of the shooting victim.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
A young woman collapses in grief after hearing of the shooting victim.

Three hours later, officers responded to a drive-by shooting near the Canfield Apartments that left two young men with non-life-threatening injuries.

In an early morning press conference, Belmar called the violence an impediment to the hard work being done in Ferguson.

“There’s too many people that have worked too hard--and I’m not talking about the police department, I’m talking about people in our community--they’ve worked too hard for this to happen and be undermined," he said. "We can't talk about the good things that we have been talking about over the last year, since last year’s events, if we’re prevented from moving forward. It’s untenable at this point." 

Attorney general Loretta Lynch echoed Belmar's sentiment in remarks to the National Fraternal Order of Police conference.

"As we have seen over the recent months and years, not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest, it places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harms way," Lynch said. "The weekend's events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing. But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked hard to achieve over the past year."

The atmosphere on West Florissant Avenue was tense even before the shooting. Police were in riot gear after businesses along the corridor were damaged, and officers reported objects being thrown from the crowd. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter was assaulted and robbed.

The crowd thinned quickly after the shooting. Officers used smoke to clear the remaining protesters around 2 a.m., though Belmar could not confirm whether tear gas was also used.

A line of police face off with protesters on West Florissant Ave., last Sunday night.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
A line of police face off with protesters on West Florissant Ave., last Sunday night.

The violence marred an otherwise peaceful weekend of remembrances exactly one year after Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, was killed by a white Ferguson police officer.

Earlier in the evening Michael Brown’s death was memorialized at a free concert held at the club FUBAR near Grand Center.  Organizer Tory Russell said the venue and performers gathered to collect canned goods for donation to Ferguson area food banks and monetary donations for the Brown family. 

Charles Jones, 27, of St. Louis, watched the protest on West Florissant Ave. before gunfire erupted between two groups of people a block away.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Charles Jones, 27, of St. Louis, watched the protest on West Florissant Ave. before gunfire erupted between two groups of people a block away.

  Several performers said the concert was held in the tradition of historical performances from the civil rights era and other protest movements.

“Events like these are in the likes of what was happening through great movements in our country and great musicians in our country who made music dedicated to what was going on socially,” said rapper Pharoahe Monch.

He said the concert also acts as a reminder that little has changed after a year of protests and police confrontations. The gunfire in Ferguson later in the evening seemed to confirm that sentiment.

“If you’re not in the midst of it, it may even seem unreal to people outside of the struggle that’s happening,” said the rapper. 

Follow Willis Ryder Arnold on Twitter:  @WillisRArnold 

Follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter: @durrieB

Copyright 2015 St. Louis Public Radio

Willis Ryder Arnold is an arts and culture reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. He has contributed to NPR affiliates, community stations, and nationally distributed radio programs, as well as Aljazeera America, The New York Times blogs, La Journal de la Photographie, and LIT Magazine. He is a graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a recipient of the Society of Professional Journalist’s award for Radio In-Depth Reporting.
Durrie Bouscaren
Durrie Bouscaren covers healthcare and medical research throughout the St. Louis metro area. She comes most recently from Iowa Public Radio’s newsroom in Des Moines, where she reported on floods, a propane shortage, and small-town defense contractors. Since catching the radio bug in college, Bouscaren has freelanced and interned at NPR member stations WRVO, WAER and KQED. Her work has aired on All Things Considered, KQED’s The California Report, and Harvest Public Media, a regional reporting collaborative.