FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - St. Louis County Police released a video on Tuesday that they said shows a suspect, who has been accused of firing on police, drawing a pistol from his pants during protests in strife-torn Ferguson, Missouri.
Tyrone Harris, 18, was shot by police and is in critical condition. He has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of shooting at a vehicle. Bond for Harris, who is black, was set at $250,000.
The incident occurred on Sunday in the St. Louis suburb where largely peaceful demonstrations over police shootings of unarmed black men have been punctuated by violence.
The 13-second video taken from a surveillance camera at an insurance agency shows a group of people milling about during Sunday night’s protests marking the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.
During the video, shots are fired and a young man can be seen brandishing what looks like a pistol.
St. Louis County Police said: “The video shows Harris grab a handgun out of his waistband once shots are fired during the protest in the West Florissant corridor.”
Harris’s father said his son did not have a gun.
“He was running for his ... life because someone was shooting at him,” Tyrone Harris, Sr. said in a telephone interview from his St. Louis-area home before the video was released.
According to St. Louis city court records, the younger Harris was free on bail awaiting trial on charges of stealing a motor vehicle, theft of a firearm and resisting arrest.
A state of emergency that was declared on Monday for the Ferguson area was still in effect on Tuesday. Protesters have been marching and staging acts of civil disobedience to mark the anniversary of the death of Brown, 18.
His death was one in a series of police killings of unarmed black men in U.S. cities including New York, Baltimore, North Charleston, South Carolina and Cincinnati that renewed the debate on race and justice and led to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
In Los Angeles on Tuesday, a group of protesters from the “Black Lives Matter” movement disrupted a police commission meeting on the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of unarmed black man Ezell Ford, who was killed during a struggle with a police officer.
After darkness fell, a line of riot-gear clad police rushed toward a few dozen demonstrators who had briefly blocked a street that has been the site of frequent protests since Brown’s death. Officers pushed the crowd back onto the sidewalk.
“I don’t condone violence, but I don’t condemn it either. Some of these kids are just fed up,” said St. Louis resident Micheal Torrence, 33.
Torrence and several other demonstrators in the area said they were not swayed by the police video that appears to show Harris with a gun.
Torrence said the fact that the officers involved were dressed in plainclothes colored his impressions of the incident: “It makes a difference. He may have been shooting at a different group and didn’t know they were police.”
Brian Fletcher, a former mayor of Ferguson now on the city council, said he believed that violence the city has experienced over the past year was coming to an end.
“If this is the worst that’s going to happen, then we’ll survive,” said Fletcher, standing in the “I Love Ferguson” store he opened in October to raise money for city businesses and institutions that were damaged in riots last year.
Sunday night’s violence included a drive-by shooting and several instances of rocks and bottles being hurled at police.
Rallies over the past few days have been mostly peaceful, but late on Monday police carrying shields rushed a crowd of protesters prompting many to scream and run. Protesters who were arrested were suspected of throwing frozen water bottles and rocks at police and other offenses, according to the St. Louis County Police Department.
Adding to the tension, four white men carrying military-style rifles and sidearms, who said they are part of a group called “Oath Keepers,” patrolled Ferguson’s streets.
The group describes itself as an association of current and former U.S. soldiers and police who aim to protect the U.S. Constitution. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization, has described the “Oath Keepers” as a “fiercely anti-government, militaristic group.”
The St. Louis County police chief condemned their appearance in Ferguson.
Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson in Ferguson, Mary Wisniewski and Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, and Dana Feldman in Los Angeles; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Ken Wills