Police say a black teenager shot dead by an officer was suspected of robbing a store shortly before he was killed.
They released documents saying Michael Brown, 18, was believed to have stolen a £30 box of cigars from a convenience store in a “strong-arm” robbery in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of St Louis, Missouri.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know he was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Mr Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic”.
The officer who shot Mr Brown, Darren Wilson, 28, had been a policeman for six years and had no complaints filed against him, Mr Jackson said.
Mr Brown’s death ignited four days of police clashes with furious protesters, but the tension eased on Thursday after Missouri’s governor turned oversight of the protests over to the state Highway Patrol.
Within hours, the mood on the street eased, with state troopers walking side-by-side with peaceful protesters and no hint of violence. Gone were the police in riot gear and armoured vehicles, pointing assault rifles at protesters and firing tear gas into crowds.
Last night civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters as they marched to the site where Mr Brown was killed.
Relatives quickly questioned whether the police officer really believed Mr Brown was a suspect and said no robbery would justify shooting him after he put his hands up.
“It’s bad enough they assassinated him, and now they’re trying to assassinate his character,” the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said.
A lawyer for the teenager was with Mr Brown on the day of the shooting said his client has acknowledged to investigators that Mr Brown took cigars from the store.
Officer Wilson has been on administrative leave since the August 9 shooting.
Mr Jackson described him as a “gentle, quiet man” who had been an excellent officer and on the Ferguson force for four years.
Police records show that at 11.51am on the day of the shooting, authorities received a call reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched, arriving within three minutes.
The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man towards another store.
Descriptions of the suspect were broadcast over the police radio. The officer did not find the suspects on the street or at the other store, the reports said. The suspects were identified as Mr Brown and Dorian Johnson, 22.
Separately, Officer Wilson had been responding to a nearby call involving a sick child. Shortly after that, he encountered Mr Brown walking down a street. The documents contained no description of what happened between the two.
Mr Johnson has told reporters that the officer ordered the pair to move on to the pavement, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Mr Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing several times.
Police said they found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Mr Brown’s body.
Mr Crump noted that police did not release a photo of the officer, but showed images from the store’s security video that they say show Mr Brown grabbing a man inside the store. Mr Crump said he had not seen the photos.
Police “are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the ‘execution-style’ killing”, said Mr Crump.
Mr Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot dead by a Florida neighbourhood watch organiser who was later acquitted of murder.