A St. Louis-area police officer was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday for pointing a semi-automatic assault rifle at a peaceful demonstrator as tensions flared during protests over the Aug. 9 police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.
The incident just before midnight on Tuesday punctuated the 11th straight night of racially charged demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was slain by a white police officer.
No one was hurt in the gun-pointing confrontation, but the incident underscored what many have criticized as heavy-handed and unprofessional police tactics that have helped stoke continuing civil unrest.
According to an official account from the St. Louis County Police Department, an unnamed policeman from the neighboring community of St. Ann leveled his weapon at a Ferguson protester “after a verbal exchange,” and that a superior county officer, a sergeant, quickly intervened.
The sergeant “immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower the weapon and escorting him away from the area,” a statement from the county department said.