President Barack Obama speaks on Aug. 11, 2014, in Chilmark, Mass., during his family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Jacquelyn Martin—AP
August 12, 2014 4:48 PM EDT

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:

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.

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