FERGUSON, Mo. - Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis.
The "extraordinary circumstances" surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown's family members prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.
"This independent examination will take place as soon as possible," Fallon said. "Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation." As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police responded by firing tear gas that sent many of the marchers retreating.
The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9 in the street.
A federally conducted autopsy "more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises" might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami's U.S. attorney's office. The move is "not that unusual," he added.
Federal authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Weinstein said.
President Barack Obama, who has been getting regular updates on the situation in Ferguson while on vacation, was to be briefed by Holder sometime after returning Sunday to the White House.
The Justice Department's announcement followed the first night of a state-imposed curfew in Ferguson, which ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armored vehicles to disperse defiant protesters. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters were not the reason for the police reaction early Sunday after the midnight curfew took effect. He cited a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken to the roof, and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached the protesters.
At a Sunday rally, Johnson said he had met members of Brown's family and the experience "brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart."
"When this is over," he told the crowd, "I'm going to go in my son's room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that's my baby."
Johnson added: "We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael's going to make it better for our sons to be better black men."
The Rev. Al Sharpton told the rally Brown's death was a "defining moment for this country."
Sharpton said he wants Congress to stop programs that provide military-style weaponry to police departments. He said he expects police to "smear" the slain teenager, his family and his attorneys. He also condemned the recent violence and looting in Ferguson.
The protests have been going on since Brown's death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department.