Mother says Missouri teen killed by police was working toward a better life
FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — Michael Brown was going to defy negative stereotypes, eschewing the street life that plagued many African-American young men by instead going to college, his mother said.
"People may do things and it becomes repetitive in a certain race, but we didn't. We don't live like that. Not our family," his mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CNN.
"We feel like we can do anything and go anywhere. ... Just because my son is a 6'4" black male walking down a city street does not mean he fit the profile for anything other than just walking down the street."
But Brown's shooting death Saturday at the hands of a Missouri police officer is now fueling debate over whether those same stereotypes his family was trying to avoid played a role in the 18-year-old's death.
Violence erupted once again Monday night in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, population 21,000. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said shots rang out in the city, and police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered in an area where looting took place Sunday night.
About 63% of Ferguson residents over age 16 are African-American. But according to racial profiling data from the Missouri Attorney General's Office, 86% of traffic stops involve African-American drivers.
Exactly what led up to Brown's death is a point of major contention.
One side says the teen was surrendering, his hands in the air to show he was unarmed, when the officer fatally shot him. The slain teenager and a friend were "accused of stealing gum from the store or some sort of cigarettes," St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said.
"He ran for his life, they shot him and he fell," witness Piaget Crenshaw told CNN affiliate KTVI. "He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died."
But authorities say Brown had attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.
"The genesis of this was a physical confrontation," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. His department has been called in to conduct an independent investigation.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the shooting "deserves a fulsome review" by federal investigators.
"At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right," he said.
After some began looting in the area Sunday night, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called for people to stay peaceful and protest nonviolently.
"We have seen young people giving in to violence and frustration and rage," he told reporters. "If you want to honor his memory, honor his memory by seeking justice nonviolently."
Shot two days before college
McSpadden said her son was supposed to start college Monday.
"He was so excited to be setting an example for his younger siblings," she said.
But "we can't even celebrate. We've got to plan a funeral."
Some in Ferguson want the officer who shot Brown identified.
Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, said Monday that he planned to release the name by Tuesday. Authorities want to make sure the officer is in a safe location, he said.
McSpadden chastised the officer who she says cut a promising life short.
"You took my son away from me! You know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many!" she shouted into a television reporter's microphone.
Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., said he just wants justice and "to get this resolved in the right manner."
"I will be a little calmer," the father said. "But I don't think I'll ever have peace."
CNN's Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet wrote in Atlanta; George Howell reported from Missouri. CNN's Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, Don Lemon, Wolf Blitzer, Ashley Fantz, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.