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Lesley McSpadden, the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, wipes away tears as Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., holds up a family picture of himself and his son during a news conference on August 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.
Lesley McSpadden, the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, wipes away tears as Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., holds up a family picture of himself and his son during a news conference on August 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Jeff Roberson—AP

Parents of Slain Missouri Teen Plead for Justice

As the parents of an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by police in a St. Louis suburb publicly appealed for justice, the FBI opened a civil rights inquiry and Attorney General Eric Holder promised a "thorough, fair investigation" into the shooting that has erupted into a national debate.

“I just wish I could have been there to help him,” Lesley McSpadden, the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, said at a news conference in Ferguson, Mo. Monday. She broke down crying as she spoke, an enlarged photo of her firstborn in her hands.

“He was funny, silly, he could make you laugh.. He was a good boy, he didn’t deserve none of this," his father, Mike Brown Sr., said. “We want justice for our son.”

The shooting has sparked outrage in Ferguson, a predominantly African-American city of some 21,000 people northwest of St. Louis. Sunday night protests led to violence, with several local businesses damaged in looting and unrest. Tempers continued to flare Monday, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds that gathered the site of a convenience store burned the night before, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier in the day, members of Brown's family tried to dissuade protesters from turning to violence.

"Why would you burn your community?," Lesley McSpadden, Brown's grandfather, said. "Why? This should not be his legacy."

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the family wants a full investigation into the death of the teenager, who was killed Saturday afternoon in an altercation with police. “I don’t want to sugar coat it, their baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump said. “Our children deserve the dignity and respect of law enforcement when they’re walking down the street."

Authorities said there was a struggle over an officer's weapon, though witnesses have disputed that account. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Monday that an autopsy showed Brown had been struck by multiple gunshots. The location of the bullets has not been disclosed. Officials have said they will reveal the identity of the officer who shot Brown by Tuesday afternoon.

“These parents know in their heart, and they reject what the police department said how this played out,” Crump said.

Holder promised Monday that the incident would receive a "fulsome review," with the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division working in conjunction with local officers. “The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities,” Holder said in a statement. “At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right."

Brown's shooting is the latest recent, high-profile incident of an African American dying at the hands of police. On Aug. 5, a 22-year-old holding a BB gun inside an Ohio Walmart was fatally shot by officers after allegedly failing to drop the weapon. Last month in New York City, Eric Garner died mid-arrest after allegedly being placed in a chokehold by police officers responding to a nuisance call. And the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, continues to reverberate. Crump represented Martin's relatives and said Monday that the teen's father, Tracy Martin, reached out to Brown's family.

Missouri lawmakers, meanwhile, called for a “transparent understanding” of the events that led to Brown's death.

“As a mother, I grieve for this child and his family,” Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement. “I pray that the wonderful, hardworking, and God-loving people of Ferguson will find peace and patience as we wait for the results of what will be numerous and thorough investigations of what happened."

Republican Senator Roy Blunt said in a statement Brown’s recent graduation from high school “should have been a beginning of better things. Everyone deserves a transparent understanding of what happened here."

— With reporting by Kristina Sauerwein / Ferguson, Mo.

Witness Tension Between Police and Protestors in Ferguson, Mo.

A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.
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A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 11, 2014.Whitney Curtis—The New York Times/Redux
A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
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Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Police Shooting Missouri
APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri
Police Shooting Missouri
Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Demonstrators protest outside of Greater St. Marks Family Church in Ferguson, Missouri
Protesters take part in a peaceful demonstration against shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson speaks to protesters as he walks through a peaceful demonstration as communities continue to react to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Jon Lowenstein Teargas
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Police Shooting Missouri
Ferguson Lowenstein
Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Protesters react to the effects of tear gas which was fired at demonstrators reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri
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Police arrest two in front of McDonalds
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National Guard Called In As Unrest Continues In Ferguson
Violence between police and protestors erupts in Ferguson - again
Police fire tear gas in the direction of where bottles were thrown from crowds gathered near the QuikTrip on W. Florissant Avenue on Aug. 18, 2014.
Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant as they react to tear gas fired by police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of Brown, near Ferguson
Demonstrators protest against the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Aug. 19, 2014.
A police officer in riot gear detains a demonstrator protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson
Police officers in riot gear watch demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown from the side of a building in Ferguson
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A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Brown in Ferguson
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A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death o
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Whitney Curtis—The New York Times/Redux
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