Obama Calls Michael Brown Death ‘Heartbreaking’

2 minute read

President Barack Obama called the death of Ferguson, Mo. teen Michael Brown ‘heartbreaking’ Tuesday, in his first public comments on the police shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama appealed for calm, noting the Department of Justice is investigating the shooting. Brown’s death has set off incidents of rioting and violent confrontations with police, who have responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. He said:

“The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed.

I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.”

Brown was shot during an altercation with police on Saturday afternoon. The circumstances of the shooting are hotly contested by witnesses and police. Police said Tuesday they would not release the name of the police officer who shot Brown “for safety purposes.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com