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US Officials Meet with Baltimore Victim's Family


Small Skirmishes Flare in Baltimore as Police Enforce Curfew
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U.S. Justice Department officials say they have met with the family of Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury days after being taken into police custody, and with an injured police officer who remains hospitalized.

The department says the meetings happened Tuesday.

Justice officials also say representatives from a specialized office that mediates conflict between police departments and communities are also in Baltimore and met with residents who shared concerns about a lack of trust in law enforcement.

Separately, the department says the results of a federal review of the Baltimore Police Department's use of force practices are expected to be announced in coming weeks. The department also has begun a civil rights investigation into Gray's death.

Looting, gunfire in Ferguson, Missouri

Looting, fires and gunfire broke out overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, during protests in response to the death of a black man in police custody in Baltimore.

Several dozen people gathered Tuesday night on West Florissant Avenue, the site of several protests last summer and fall following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson police officer.

In Ferguson, there were reports of two people being shot late Tuesday and early Wednesday, though it wasn't immediately clear if the shootings were linked to the protests.

A gas station was looted. Trash cans and a portable toilet were set on fire. People threw rocks at police cars.

There were no reports of officers being injured.

Baltimore 'stable'

The Baltimore police commissioner said the eastern U.S. "city is stable" as authorities enforced an overnight curfew after Monday's riots over the death of a young black man who died in police custody earlier this month.

Late-night tensions between police and protesters briefly lit up in a Baltimore neighborhood Tuesday with a small group of what officials called “agitators” defying the city-mandated 10 p.m. curfew, lobbing glass, plastic bottles and garbage at the officers.

But about an hour after the curfew took effect, there appeared to be only a few, in any, protesters left on the streets.

Television footage showed dozens of National Guard troops patrolling the streets in military vehicles as the curfew took hold.

"The curfew is, in fact, working," Police Commissioner Anthony Betts told reporters. "The biggest thing is that citizens are safe, the city is stable [and] we hope to maintain it that way."

Betts said a total of 10 people were arrested after the curfew went into effect.

The same neighborhood near Pennsylvania and North avenues, where looters on Monday night set fire to a pharmacy, was the scene of a more festive demonstration Tuesday afternoon.

Different side of Baltimore

Organizers and neighbors said they wanted to show a different side of Baltimore than the destruction used by some protesters to make a statement.

"This is our hood. Our home. We protect, we don't destroy. We're here to build and grow," Baltimore resident Robert Valentine said. "We've got little ones to come up and all that. And what are they going to have to see? What are they going to have to say? What type of history are we going to leave for them, if we let this go like this?"

In addition to the charred pharmacy, a second massive fire that began the same night as the riots is also under investigation.

Gatherings are expected to continue, as residents await Friday's release by the Baltimore Police Department of more information about the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

The curfew will remain in place until next week.

Tensions remain

Despite a day of relative calm, Baltimore is still under a state of emergency. Police and the National Guard will remain deployed in parts of Baltimore with a history of crime.

The Baltimore Orioles canceled their baseball game at a downtown stadium Tuesday for the second straight night. A scheduled Wednesday afternoon game will be played, but without spectators allowed into the stadium.

Police arrested 235 people Monday. Twenty police officers were injured. Nearly 150 cars were set on fire.

The violence erupted Monday after the funeral for Gray, who died from a severe spinal injury earlier this month after police arrested him and threw him into the back of a van, driving him to jail without securing him with a seat belt as required.

The six officers involved in Gray's arrest are on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

Many of the protesters said the violence is not just about Gray, but about what they say is habitual poor treatment of blacks by the police and city officials' alleged unwillingness to do anything about it.

They also are angered over what they see as a lack of economic power, something they say has persisted for decades in black neighborhoods.

Obama reacts

President Barack Obama said the protesters have "entirely legitimate concerns" about Gray's death. But he said the rioters should be treated as criminals, saying there is no excuse for violence.

"When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting, they're not making a statement, they're stealing," he said.

"When they burn down a building, they're committing arson, and they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities," the president said.

The Justice Department and the FBI are conducting a civil rights investigation into Gray's death.

Some material for this report came from the Associated Press.