Police in the midwestern U.S. town of Ferguson used tear gas to disperse angry protesters late Monday after a grand jury ruled it will not indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in August.
Violent protests and looting broke out immediately after the jury announced charges would not be filed against Darren Wilson, who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown multiple times during an altercation on August 9.
VOA's Kane Farabaugh, reporting from just outside the police perimeter in Ferguson, described scenes of disorder and confusion, saying several buildings and police cars were being attacked and were on fire.
"One police car is completely engulfed in flames and it appears somebody has set fire to a second police car here. There are some explosions that are coming out of this police car," Farabaugh said.
"It appears the protesters have been moving around and causing destruction and some chaos here and the police are not able to keep up. There's actually very little police presence where we're at," he added.
Closer to the police station, lines of heavily armed riot police backed by armored vehicles advanced through the streets after the unrest broke out. Many protesters hurled bottles, rocks and other objects at the police.
Residents try to stop violence
But VOA's Arash Arabasadi, who is also on the scene, said many local residents quickly confronted the violent protesters.
"You had maybe 5 percent, 10 percent that I saw who were throwing things through local businesses. But then right away, you had a big wall of people running up, like 'No, these are our businesses, this is our home, don't do this,' " Arabasadi said.
Most of the protesters appear to be local residents of the St. Louis suburb, where there is widespread public anger over perceived police discrimination against the predominantly African American community, Arabasadi said.
"These are people who are mad. And they're mad, not just about this, they're mad about other things," Arabasadi said.
"They're mad about traffic stops, they're mad about treatment from the police and you can tell as much from the types of things they're shouting at the police. This is not an isolated incident. This is just kind of the straw that broke Ferguson's back, at least for the time being," he reported.
Early Tuesday, several buildings in the area continued to burn, some uncontrolled. The St. Louis County Police Department also reported several scattered incidents of looting at local businesses.
It is unclear why authorities chose to announce the grand jury's decision late at night, a move that appeared to embolden many of the protesters who were intent on acting violently.
"This announcement comes at a time in which the cover of darkness is an ally to the people who are trying to cause trouble here. It's very hard to see who is doing what, why they are doing these things, and there's no telling when this is going to end," Farabaugh said.