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Ferguson protests marred by gunfire

FERGUSON, Mo. -- A man who authorities say opened fire on officers in Ferguson, Missouri, on the anniversary of Michael Brown's death was critically wounded when the officers shot back, St. Louis County's police chief said early Monday.

St. Louis County Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference that officers had been tracking the suspect, who they believed was armed, during a protest marking the death of Brown, the black, unarmed 18-year-old whose killing by a white Ferguson police officer touched off a national "Black Lives Matter" movement.

It wasn't immediately clear if the latest police-involved shooting would spur renewed unrest in Ferguson, the site of many protests -- some violent -- in the aftermath of Brown's death on Aug. 9, 2014. Protest groups were quick to criticize the police response to protesters who gathered along West Florissant Avenue on Sunday night.

At the height of what was already a rowdy protest in which rocks and bottles were thrown at officers, gunshots rang out from the area near a strip of stores, including some that had been looted. Belmar believes the shots came from about six different shooters. What prompted the shooting wasn't clear, but Belmar said the groups had been feuding.

At one point, the suspect crossed the street and apparently spotted the plainclothes officers arriving in an unmarked van with distinctive red and blue police lights, Belmar said. He said the suspect shot into the hood and windshield.

The officers fired back at him from inside the vehicle then pursued him on foot when he ran.

The suspect again fired on the officers when he became trapped in a fenced-in area, the chief said, and all four officers fired back. He was struck and fell.

The suspect was taken to a hospital, where Belmar said he was in "critical, unstable" condition. Authorities didn't immediately release the identities of anyone involved, but Tyrone Harris told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the injured suspect was his son, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr.

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A young boy looks at a man lying in a parking lot with what appears to be gunshot wounds after a barrage of gun fire erupted during a demonstration to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, August 9, 2015 in Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The elder Harris told the newspaper shortly after 3 a.m. that his son had just gotten out of surgery.

None of the officers was seriously injured. All four have been put on standard administrative leave. They were not wearing body cameras, Belmar said.

The shooting happened shortly after what the chief called "an exchange of gunfire between two groups" rang out around 11:15 p.m. Sunday while protesters were gathered on West Florissant Avenue, a business zone that saw rioting and looting last year after Brown's killing.

The shots sent protesters and journalists running for cover, reports CBS News producer Jonathan Blakely, who was among them.

The chief said an estimated six shooters unleashed a "remarkable" amount of gunfire over about 45 seconds.

Belmar waved off any notion that the people with the weapons were part of the protest.

"They were criminals. They weren't protesters," he said.

The man who fired on officers had a semi-automatic 9MM gun that was stolen last year from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, according to the chief.

"There is a small group of people out there that are intent on making sure that peace doesn't prevail," he said. "There are a lot of emotions. I get it. But we can't sustain this as we move forward."

He appealed for the public's help:

In prepared remarks she will deliver to a conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Pittsburgh later today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she strongly condemns last night's violence against the community, including police officers, in Ferguson. "As we have seen over the recent months and years, not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest, it places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm's way," Lynch stated.

"The weekend's events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing. But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year."

The Department of Justice and the City of Ferguson are in the process of working out a consent decree that will lay out how the city will reform discriminatory policing practices which Justice detailed in its scathing, 100-page report released earlier this year.

Other Violence

Separately, St. Louis County police said two young males were injured in what appears to have been a drive-by shooting near a monument to Michael Brown.

Spokesperson Shawn McGuire said in an email to The Associated Press that the 17-year-old and 19-year-olds told officers they were walking around 2:15 a.m. Monday near the Canfield Apartments in Ferguson when an unknown black man shot at them from the back of a passing vehicle.

McGuire says the 17-year-old was shot in the chest and shoulder and the 19-year-old was shot in the chest. He says both are being treated at a hospital and that neither has life-threatening injuries.

Separately, police said a 17-year-old male has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and one count of resisting arrest after he fired shots near the protesters late Sunday. He is being held on $100,000 bond.

In Kansas City, Mo, police arrested four people during a protest Sunday evening, who put tape across a roadway and then laid down in the street during a protest. They were cited for blocking a street.

Protesters also gathered at another location in Kansas City on Sunday. Local pastor Michael Brooks said that protest was also to remember Ryan Stokes, a 24-year-old black man killed by Kansas City police in 2013.

Police said Stokes had a gun and didn't obey commands to show his hands. Stokes' family disputes that he had a gun and said he might not have heard the commands.

The anniversary of the killing, which cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, has sparked days of renewed protests, though until Sunday they had been peaceful and without any arrests.

Before the gunfire, protesters were blocking traffic and confronting police. One person threw a glass bottle at officers but missed.

For the first time in three consecutive nights of demonstrations, some officers were dressed in riot gear, including bullet-proof vests and helmets with shields.

One officer was treated for cuts related to a brick thrown at his face, Belmar said. Police made an unknown number of arrests, and at one point early Monday shot smoke to disperse the crowd that lingered on West Florissant, he said, discounting reports that tear gas had been used.

Two officers were pepper sprayed by protesters, police said.

CBS St. Louis affiliate KMOV-TV was interviewing Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andrew Anderson when the shots were heard:

Earlier in the evening, two businesses were broken into. Bowen's Beauty Supply Store on West Florissant was vandalized around 8:30 p.m. Police believe the person stole a cash register but then dropped the register outside a nearby store and fled, KMOV says.

Someone later threw a glass bottle towards officers. Police with riot gear then arrived.

Several other peaceful events earlier Sunday were held to mark the anniversary.

Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., led a march through town. It started at the site where Brown was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November.

Later, a few hundred people turned out at Greater St. Mark Family Church for a service to remember Brown, with his father joining other relatives sitting behind the pulpit.

His family and members of the community released doves in his honor, reports CBS News correspondent Don Champion.

Brown Sr. spoke about his last year of grief.

"You know, I loved my boy. This ain't no game to me. This is serious to me."

But he added that his son "made the movement to open up eyes to help other families. I still look at it - yeah I lost - but he's still working right now."

Organizers of some of the weekend activities pledged a day of civil disobedience on Monday, but have not offered specific details.

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