FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — Michael Brown was going to defy negative stereotypes, eschewing the street life that plagued many African-American young men to go to college, his mother said.
“People may do things and it becomes repetitive in a certain way, 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.
Ferguson is 67% African-American. According to data from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, African-American drivers in Ferguson are stopped, searched and arrested at a higher rate compared to other races.
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,” Holder said.
After some began looting in the area Sunday night, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called for people to protest nonviolently.
“We have seen young people giving in to violence and frustration and rage. It may be inexcusable. It is not unexpected,” Brooks told reporters.
Mother: ‘No violence, just justice’
Brown’s parents also urged people to remain calm.
“No violence, just justice,” McSpadden told reporters.
She said her son was supposed to start college Monday.
“We can’t even celebrate,” she said. “We’ve got to plan a funeral.”
Some in Ferguson want the officer who shot Brown identified.
Jackson, the police chief, said Monday he plans to release the name in the next 24 hours. Authorities want to make sure the officer is in a safe location, he said.
McSpadden chastised authorities whom 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.”