By Amie Parnes - 08/18/14 04:57 PM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday as part of the Justice Department’s investigation of the shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager, which has set off two weeks of demonstratins and looting in the town.
Holder will meet with law enforcement and other officials about the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer, President Obama announced Monday.
"While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only deserves to raise tensions and stir chaos, it undermines, rather than advancing justice," Obama told reporters in remarks from the White House after his meeting with Holder.
Obama said the vast majority of people in Ferguson are "peacefully protesting."
But he issued a stern warning to the "small minority of individuals" who have been carrying guns, looting and attacking law enforcement officials "serves to raise tensions and stir chaos."
Brown's killing has set off two weeks of demonstrations, as well as rioting and looting in the St. Louis suburb.
Police and witnesses have given different stories about how Brown was killed, with Brown's family arguing he was executed. Police have suggested over the last week that Brown may have tried to get the officer's gun.
An initial autopsy by Brown’s family revealed he had been shot six times, and Brown's mother has called for the arrest of officer Darren Wilson, who police have identified as the man who shot Brown.
Obama was briefed earlier on Monday by Holder about the Justice investigation, which includes an autopsy of Brown. Obama said Holder would receive an update from law enforcement officials and federal officials “on their progress.”
Obama, who said he was trying to be neutral with his remarks, said Holder would have to be “careful not to prejudge an investigation” that is ongoing.
The president has criticized police and protestors at times over the last week. “I don't want to look like I'm putting my finger on the scales one way or another,” he said on Monday.
Obama said he's "committed to changing both the perception and reality" on racial strains in low income communities across the country. But that it requires that communities "build and not tear down."
"And it requires we listen," he said.
In his statement, Obama also said there will be “bipartisan interest” in evaluating the need for supplying funding for military equipment to local police departments. Violence was said to escalate in Ferguson after the local police used military equipment reserved typically for battlefields.
Obama said it would be “useful” to review the funding to local departments to “make sure that what they're purchasing is stuff that they actually need,” Obama said of local law enforcement officials. He added that there should be a unique distinction between the military and local law enforcement officials.
“We don't want those lines blurred,” he said.
Obama also stressed that the Missouri National Guard should be “used in a limited and appropriate way.”
“I'll be watching over the next save days to assess whether it's helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson,” he said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard to help with security in Ferguson.
This story was updated at 6:10 p.m.