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Peaceful Protests End In Violence As Gunfire Erupts On Anniversary Of Michael Brown Shooting

One man is in critical condition after a barrage of gunfire following a day of peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, commemorating the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death.

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Ferguson, Mo. – A day of peaceful protests commemorating Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed man who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago on Sunday, turned violent after gunfire erupted Sunday night leaving one man in critical condition.

Police claim that gunfire was initially exchanged between two groups of protesters, and that officers only engaged after one of the protesters opened fire on four detectives in an unmarked vehicle. They returned fire, and the man was critically injured.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that gunfire erupted after police officers had threatened to arrest any protesters who stayed in the street, and at that point protesters were “estimated at fewer than 100 and were outnumbered by members of the media.”

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At a 2:30 a.m. press conference on Monday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that the groups exchanging gunfire “were criminals” rather than protesters, and that he believes there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.”

The man injured by police has been identified as Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, from St. Louis. His father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his son went to high school and was good friends with Michael Brown, and that, regarding Sunday night’s shooting, he thinks “there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said.”

Belmar said that in addition to being in an unmarked vehicle, the four detectives were not wearing body cameras. This decision was criticized by coalitions such as the Ferguson Action Council, who said that “having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”

[RELATED: Ferguson Police Have Body Cameras… But Don’t Wear Them]

Reuters noted that the gunfire on Sunday night was in “marked contrast to a day of mostly subdued, peaceful commemorations” in Ferguson, where about about 1,000 people gathered together to share 4-1/2 minutes of silence in honor of the 4-1/2 hours Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot, and to release doves and embark on a “silent march through Ferguson to honor Brown and others killed in confrontations with police.”

On Sunday night, a few local businesses were looted and robbed, and Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel said that he was beaten and robbed while covering the protests.

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