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Suspect killed by St. Louis police was shot in back: autopsy

St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson, left, appeals for calm alongside mayor Francis Slay, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, West Side Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.
St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson, left, appeals for calm alongside mayor Francis Slay, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, West Side Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS – An autopsy showed that an 18-year-old who was shot and killed by an officer helping serve a search warrant in a violence-plagued neighbourhood died from a single wound in the back, police said Friday.

The shooting occurred less than two weeks after violence marred the anniversary of the day Michael Brown was fatally wounded by a white officer in nearby Ferguson – a killing which sparked protests and a national debate over police treatment of minorities.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson cautioned that the location of Mansur Ball-Bey’s wound neither confirms nor disproves two officers’ accounts that Ball-Bey pointed a gun at them before they shot at him Wednesday. Dotson said Thursday that a stolen handgun linked to Ball-Bey – with one round in the chamber and 13 more in the magazine – was found at the scene.

READ MORE: St. Louis police shoot, kill 18-year-old after home search

“Just because he was shot in the back doesn’t mean he was running away,” Dotson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “What I do know is that two officers were involved and fired shots, but I don’t know exactly where they were standing yet and I won’t know until I get their statements.”

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Police haven’t released the full autopsy or toxicology tests yet, and have not explained why they don’t yet have statements from the officers.

Dotson, unreachable Friday by The Associated Press, has pledged a thorough internal investigation.

“We have a policy that’s strong, a process that’s strong,” he told the AP. “There’s strong third-party review, and we want to make everything above reproach.”

Messages left with the Ball-Bay family’s attorney, Jermaine Wooten, were not immediately returned. Wooten has insisted to media outlets that Ball-Bay was not armed when he was shot.

READ MORE: Protesters gather in Ferguson for demonstration smaller, calmer than recent nights

The law gives police officers latitude to use deadly force when they feel physically endangered. The Supreme Court held in a 1989 case that the appropriateness of use of force by officers “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene,” rather than evaluated through 20/20 hindsight.

Officers have been cleared in cases in which suspects were shot in the back, including the St. Louis killing nearly a year ago of black 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr. by Jason Flanery, a white, off-duty officer.

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