Police shot and killed the son of one of the Little Rock Nine, the group of blacks who integrated the city's schools in 1957.
Police said they were called after neighbors saw Erin Eckford, 26, firing an assault rifle into the air Wednesday night. Police shot him with a bean bag round, then opened fire after he pointed the rifle at them, authorities said. He was struck six times, police spokesman Sgt. Terry Hastings said Thursday.
The three officers involved were placed on leave with pay, the standard procedure, while the shooting is investigated.
Hastings said Eckford had a history of mental problems. "We're looking for friends and family to see what happened that day to set him off," the spokesman said.
Eckford, a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was the son of Elizabeth Eckford. She was among the students who broke the color barrier at Central High School in 1957.
That year, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock to enforce a school integration order after then-Gov. Orval E. Faubus used National Guardsmen to keep the nine blacks out of Central High.
Elizabeth Eckford had no comment Thursday, a family friend said. Her son had a short criminal history with a marijuana charge in 1997 and a gun possession charge in 2000.
Elizabeth Eckford, 60, spent 23 years away from Arkansas but returned to Little Rock several years ago.
She received a degree in history from Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio, and had a career in the Army as a journalist.
She has worked part time in Little Rock as a social worker, and has spent time speaking to schoolchildren.