15 Aug 2014

State police sent in after teen shot

8:41 pm on 15 August 2014

The governor of the US state of Missouri has directed state police to take over security in Ferguson, after four nights of violent protests and arson over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by local police.

Captain Ronald Johnson.

Captain Ronald Johnson. Photo: AFP / Getty Images North America

Jay Nixon says the mainly African-American suburb resembles a war zone and has put a black state police officer Captain Ronald Johnson in charge of the St Louis suburb.

Captain Johnson says he will take a new approach after complaints that police have used heavy-handed tactics, arresting dozens of protesters and using teargas and pepper pellets to break up crowds.

Michael Brown was fatally shot on 10 August. Details about the incident have been disputed, but eyewitnesses said the 18-year-old had his arms raised when he was shot multiple times by a police officer, the BBC reports. Police say there was a struggle and the officer suffered facial injuries.

In contrast on Thursday evening, state troopers and local police walked with protesters, shaking their hands.

As Captain Johnson walked at the front of a march through the streets, he was seen hugging people he met. "We all want justice. We all want answers," he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have held vigils across the United States in honour of Michael Brown. Moments of silence and protests were held in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and elsewhere on Thursday.