By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) - Mourners were gathering on Saturday for the funeral of an 18-year-old black man whose shooting by a white police officer earlier this month re-ignited racial tensions in the St. Louis area.
The funeral for Mansur Ball-Bey comes 10 days after he was fatally shot in the back by a plainclothes police officer outside a home where police were serving a search warrant.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said two officers fired at Ball-Bey after he and another African-American ran out of the back of a home being searched and Ball-Bey pointed a gun at them.
Dotson said Ball-Bey was struck by one of the bullets and then ran from the backyard to the front of the house.
He said police recovered the gun that Ball-Bey dropped. The gun had been stolen, Dotson said.
The shooting set off days of protests as Ball-Bey's family and some witnesses contradicted police accounts.
Questions mounted in recent days after the city's medical examiner said Ball-Bey's spinal cord was severed by the bullet, which may have limited his ability to run. The medical examiner said the bullet also struck Ball-Bey in the heart, which would have killed him immediately.
"Their story is not plausible," said Jerryl Christmas, a lawyer representing Ball-Bey's parents. "The police may have mistaken him for someone else when they shot. But he did not have a gun. He was not in that house."
A pathologist hired by the family will review the findings, Christmas said.
Ball-Bey had just gotten off work and was waiting for a relative to give him a ride outside a home near the one police were searching on Aug. 19, Christmas said.
When Ball-Bey and a 14-year-old friend saw plainclothes officers with guns, they became frightened and started to run, he said.
Christmas said witnesses, including the 14-year-old, say Ball-Bey was not in the house being searched and did not have a gun.
"Do I think police could have planted that gun? Yes I think that," Christmas said. "Whoever controls the crime scene controls the narrative."
He said the family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department.
The department said it could not comment while the shooting is under investigation.
The killing came about a year after the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests around the nation and a debate over police treatment of minorities.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Eric Beech)