ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A black man killed in a shooting by St. Louis police Wednesday died from a gunshot wound in the back, the city’s police department said Friday, citing an autopsy.
Police have said that Mansur Ball-Bey, 18, pointed a gun at them before officers opened fire — an account disputed by his family’s attorney. Chief of Police Sam Dotson said that the wound’s location doesn’t confirm or disprove the officers’ account that Ball-Bey pointed a gun, according to a report Friday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Just because he was shot in the back doesn’t mean he was running away,” Dotson said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “It could be, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t mean that. I just don’t know yet.”
Wednesday’s shooting sparked demonstrations that night, with protesters throwing bricks and bottles at officers, and people setting a car on fire and burglarizing businesses, according to police.
Ball-Bey’s death comes amid tense relations between police and some residents in St. Louis following last year’s shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death sparked protests and reignited a national conversation about race and policing.
The two officers involved in Wednesday’s shooting were placed on administrative leave, per police policy. The autopsy findings will be included in an investigative report to city and federal prosecutors, who will decide whether charges will be filed in the case, police said.
Police said officers were carrying out a search warrant in north St. Louis on Wednesday when two men ran out of the back of a house.
“Officers in the rear alley ordered them to stop and to drop the gun. As they ran, (Ball-Bey) turned and pointed the gun at the officers. There were two officers in the alley. Both officers fired,” Dotson told reporters.
Ball-Bey, who police said did not fire a shot, was struck and pronounced dead at the scene near the intersection of Walton Avenue and Page Boulevard.
Police say they recovered the gun that they say Ball-Bey had.
An attorney for Ball-Bey’s family, Jermaine Wooten, contends that the teen didn’t have a gun, citing what he says were accounts from witnesses.
“Speaking with every witness on the scene, no one confirms he had the gun. Everyone said just the opposite — he did not have a gun,” Wooten said.
Wooten said he understood that DNA tests were being performed on the weapon that police say Ball-Bey had, but that results had not been returned by Friday morning.
The second person who ran from the house remains on the loose. Other people who had been in the house were taken into custody, the chief said.
Officers recovered three other guns, including one inside the raided home and two that were tossed over a fence as the suspects were running, according to Dotson. Three of the four recovered weapons were stolen, he said.
Soon after the shooting, protesters gathered at the intersection of Walton and Page, kicking off demonstrations that would result in police making nine arrests and breaking up crowds with tear gas Wednesday night.
Police said they dispersed the initial group of demonstrators without tear gas, but protesters returned and ended up in a cat-and-mouse game with officers.
“We got called back to the neighborhood when a car was set on fire,” Dotson said. There was also a report that a back door had been kicked in.
Protesters marched onto Interstate 70, blocked it and returned to the intersection, he said. Responding officers were struck with bricks and bottles, he added.
“At at that point, after the crowd ignored repeated requests and directions, inert smoke was used,” Dotson said. “After that didn’t have an effect, tear gas was used.”
Police released video shot from the perspective of officers, showing objects flying in their direction and the crowd running from the approaching police line with raised shields and sticks.
Crime high in area
The neighborhood made headlines earlier in the week when a 93-year-old Tuskegee Airman who had lost his way stopped his car there to call his daughter and was robbed. When he asked passersby for help, he was carjacked.
Dotson said the crime rate is high in north St. Louis, where abandoned, boarded-up homes line many streets. In the days before Wednesday’s shooting, a business near the site of the shooting took gunfire, and someone was murdered blocks away, Dotson said.
Police routinely search for illegal drugs and stolen guns in the neighborhood, the chief said.