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Protest over black Missouri teenager's shooting by police turns to looting, vandalism

What began as a peaceful protest of the shooting of an 18-year-old unarmed black man by a police officer in a St. Louis suburb turned into what the town's mayor called a "huge mess" as several businesses were looted and cars were vandalized.

A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening in Ferguson, Mo. for Michael Brown, whom witnesses and authorities said was shot several times by an officer who had scuffled with the teen and another person.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told The Associated Press that he was informed Monday that the FBI was going to take over the investigation into the death. Jackson said he welcomes the move.

After the vigil Sunday, some people looted a convenience store. Several other stores along a main road near the shooting scene were broken into and looted, including a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store.

People were seen carrying bags of food and toilet paper. TV footage showed streams of people walking out of a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol, and in some cases protesters were standing atop police cars or taunting officers who stood stoic, often in riot gear.

Other witnesses reported seeing people vandalize police cars and kick in windows. Television footage showed windows busted out of a TV station van.

More than 30 people were arrested on charges including assault, burglary and theft. Police say two officers suffered minor injuries.

"Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help. ... We're only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors,” Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, told KTVI-TV.  “There's nothing productive from this."

As the investigation of Brown's death progresses, "we understand people want to vent their frustrations. We understand they want to speak out," Knowles added. "We're going to obviously try to urge calm."

Knowles said police struggled to catch any looters because the crimes were so widespread.

Deanel Trout, a 14-year resident of Ferguson, said he was convinced that the troublemakers were largely from outside Ferguson and that they had used Brown's death and the vigil as an opportunity to steal.

"Most came here for a peaceful protest but it takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. ... I can understand the anger and unrest but I can't understand the violence and looting," Trout, 53, said.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said there were no reports of injuries but confirmed widespread property damage. "Right now I'm just worried about people, not property," he said.

Pat Washington, a spokeswoman for Dooley, said later that there was one instance she knew of in which tear gas was used.

Earlier in the day, a few hundred protesters had gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. At one point, many of them marched into an adjacent police building, some chanting "Don't shoot me" while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase, but didn't use force; the crowd eventually left.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer encountered two people -- one of whom was Brown -- on the street near an apartment complex in Ferguson.

Belmar said one of the men pushed the officer back into his squad car and a struggle began. Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer's gun inside the police car. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities were still sorting out what happened inside the police car. It was not clear if Brown was the man who struggled with the officer.

The struggle spilled out into the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. Belmar said the exact number of shots wasn't known, but "it was more than just a couple." He also said all shell casings found at the scene matched the officer's gun. Police are still investigating why the officer shot Brown, who police have confirmed was unarmed.

Jackson said the second person has not been arrested or charged. Authorities aren't sure if that person was unarmed, Jackson said.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told KSDK-TV there's no apparent video footage of the shooting from a nearby apartment complex, or from any police cruiser dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras that the department recently bought but hasn't yet put in use.

Jackson said blood samples have been taken from Brown and the officer who shot him, with those toxicology tests generally expected to take weeks to complete.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, said he had graduated from high school and was about to enter a local college. She said she doesn't understand why police didn't subdue her son with a club or Taser, and she said the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.

"I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty," she said, fighting back tears.

The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges.

"We're outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement," said John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called the shooting "very disturbing" and said he planned to go to Ferguson to meet with the family.

St. Louis County Police Department is in charge of the investigation, and Dooley said he will request an FBI investigation. The U.S. Justice Department said Attorney General Eric Holder had instructed staff to monitor developments.

The race of the officer involved in the shooting has not been disclosed. He has been with the Ferguson Police Department for six years, Belmar said, and has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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