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Racial tensions in Missouri were stoked again on Tuesday when police killed another African American man as authorities struggled to quell the nightly confrontations over the shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson last week.
Angry residents of a black neighbourhood in St Louis, not far from Ferguson, accused the police of excessive force after two officers fired several bullets into a 23-year-old man described as carrying a knife and behaving erratically.
The man has not yet been named but he was well known in the area and was said to have learning difficulties.
Sam Dotson, the chief of St Louis’s metropolitan police, said the man did not obey orders to drop a knife and was within four feet of the officers when they shot him. The dead man was later named locally as Kajieme Powell.
Authorities in Ferguson had earlier issued a plea for “night-time quiet and reconciliation” on Tuesday after another night of gunfire, teargas and chaos 10 days after the shooting of Brown in circumstances that remain disputed.
Jail records obtained by local media outlets revealed that 78 people were arrested in clashes with protesters on Sunday night and Monday morning, despite a massive show of force by riot police and newly arrived national guard units. Officials had earlier put the number of people detained at 31.
Meanwhile, US Attorney General Eric Holder travelled to St Louis, Missouri, on Wednesday amid expectations of bringing calm to a city that had another restive night of protests and arrests.
“This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent,” Holder wrote in a local publication, St Louis Post-Dispatch. He also pressed for calm.
“In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice.”
Holder is expected to meet community leaders and FBI investigators who are looking into the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer.
As every night since the shooting, Ferguson witnessed protests through the day and night on Tuesday, but they were smaller and quieter according to reports.
(with agency inputs)