Top Obama official sent to Ferguson

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President Barack Obama is sending his attorney general to Missouri following the fatal shooting by police of an unarmed 18-year-old black man.

Michael Brown suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may have occurred when he put his hands up or when his back was turned to the shooter, according to a pathologist hired by the teenager’s family.

But the pathologist said the independent team that examined Mr Brown cannot be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted.

The post-mortem found that he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the pathologists and the family’s lawyers.

Another post-mortem conducted by St Louis County also found Mr Brown was shot six to eight times, and that he was hit in the head and chest.

In Washington, Mr Obama said Attorney General Eric Holder would arrive in Ferguson tomorrow.

The August 9 shooting touched off angry protests in Ferguson, a St Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas.

Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson to restore order yesterday, while lifting a midnight-to-5am curfew that had been in place for two days.

The president said he told Mr Nixon he wanted to ensure the use of National Guard reservists to help calm tensions must be limited in scope.

Mr Obama said he would be monitoring the operation in the coming days to see whether the guard’s involvement was helping or hurting.

As darkness fell yesterday, Guard units with armoured vehicles were waiting at a staging area about a half-mile from the portion of West Florissant Avenue that has been the scene of the largest protests.

Closer to the protest site, a crowd of demonstrators was marching and growing in size. Sheriff’s deputies in body armour and state troopers carrying wooden bats and gas masks stood watch over the group.

Mr Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson police department.

Police have said little about the encounter between the teenager and the white officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Mr Brown was shot.

Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr Michael Baden during the independent post-mortem, said a graze wound on Mr Brown’s right arm could have occurred in several ways.

The youth may have had his back to the shooter, or he could have been facing the shooter with his hands above his head or in a defensive position in front of his face.

Dr Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Mr Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered the fatal injury.

The pathologists said Mr Brown, who also was shot four times in the right arm, could have survived the other bullet wounds.

Suzanne McCune, the administrator of the St Louis County medical examiner’s office, said the county’s post-mortem found Mr Brown was hit in the head and chest.

She would not confirm whether he was hit elsewhere on his body. Full findings are not expected for about two weeks.

Family lawyer Benjamin Crump said the family wanted the additional post-mortem because they feared results of the county’s examination could be biased.

“They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child,” he said.

A grand jury could begin hearing evidence tomorrow to decide whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged over Mr Brown’s death.

Mr Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another post-mortem.

Mr Obama, during a brief pause in his summer holiday, said Mr Holder would meet FBI and other officials carrying out an independent investigation.

The president expressed sympathy for the “passions and anger” sparked by the death of Mr Brown, but said giving in to that anger through looting and attacks on police only stirs tensions and leads to further chaos.

He said overcoming the mistrust endemic between many communities and their local police would require Americans to “listen and not just shout.”

“That’s how we’re going to move forward together, by trying to unite each other and understand each other and not simply divide ourselves from one another,” the president said.

“We’re going to have to hold tight to those values.”

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