FERGUSON, United States - Police threw tear gas at protesters after they were hit by Molotov cocktails and looting broke out, the commander in charge of security in the violence-wracked US town of Ferguson, Missouri, said Monday.
Speaking at an impromptu press conference just after 1:00 am (0600 GMT), Captain Ronald Johnson justified the forceful police response to disperse an unruly crowd a few hours before the midnight Sunday curfew.
At least two people were wounded by gunfire among the protesters, Johnson said. He did not say how many people had been arrested.
"Molotov cocktails were thrown. There were shootings, looting, vandalism, and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous but premeditated criminal acts designed to damage property, hurt people, and provoke a response," Johnson said.
He described it as "disobedience, preplanned aggression."
Police responded when a civilian was shot in the protest area around 8:25 pm.
"That was followed by shots being fired on officers, a number of Molotov cocktails being hurled, and then the looting or vandalism" of at least five businesses, he said.
Other gunshots were fired in the area, and there were reports of eight people carrying guns.
Just before 9:00 pm, hundreds of protesters marched toward the police command post, and people in the crowd threw "multiple" Molotov cocktails, bottles and rockets at police.
"Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response," Johnson said.
Heavily armed riot police responded with tear gas and moved in on the crowd with armored vehicles.
The city has endured days of violence since a white police officer on August 9 shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.
Brown was shot at least six times - twice in the head and four times in the right arm - the New York Times reported, citing a preliminary private autopsy.