Man killed by St. Louis police was shot in the back, autopsy shows

Story highlights

  • Police appeal for teen witness to step forward
  • Police say Mansur Ball-Bay, 18, pointed a gun at officers before he was fatally shot; his family's attorney disputes that
  • Police chief says the wound's location doesn't prove or disprove that he was running away

(CNN)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 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 after 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.
    The two officers, each with about seven years on the job, were in plainclothes but wore vests identifying them as police, Dotson said.

    The shooting

    Police said officers were carrying out a search warrant in north St. Louis on Wednesday when two men ran out the back of a house, one carrying a gun.
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    "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, 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. Dotson said a witness told police Ball-Bey was carrying a gun.
    An attorney for Ball-Bey's family, Jermaine Wooten, contends 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 the other young man who ran out of the house told him Ball-Bey was unarmed and was shot in the back.
    Dotson said police want to interview the 14-year-old witness who spoke with Wooten.
    "I'm sending out a plea to the community, to that man's family, to that young man to come forward to tell his story," Dotson said. "Without his story, we will not have a complete set of facts that occurred that morning."
    Dotson said DNA and fingerprint tests were being performed on the weapon that police say Ball-Bey had, but that results had not been returned.
    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.

    The protests

    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 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.
    Dotson said two people -- an alderwoman and a resident -- were assaulted during a protest march Thursday night involving as many as 200 people. Some protesters, he said, jumped on car roofs.
    Dotson said he met with Gov. Jay Nixon and the head of the highway patrol but has not asked for state assistance. He said officers were working 12-hour shifts and days off were canceled.

    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 killed blocks away, Dotson said.
    Police routinely search for illegal drugs and stolen guns in the neighborhood, the chief said.