Chaotic Night in Ferguson, Missouri After Unarmed Black Teen Shot Dead By Police
Calm returned to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on Monday morning after a night of unrest that saw 32 people arrested and two police officers injured. Demonstrators took to the streets of the city of 21,000, located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of St. Louis, on Sunday to protest the Saturday police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black student who local police claim tried to seize an officer’s gun while inside a squad car.
Witnesses said Brown had his hands in the air and was trying to escape when an officer shot him multiple times. The officer, described as a white man, allegedly stood over Brown and shot him again after he fell wounded.
Peaceful protest and vigil turned violent as day turned to night Sunday, with people breaking into stores and looting them. A QuickTrip convenience store was ransacked and burned. Vehicles were vandalized, reporters were threatened. Police attempted to contain the unrest, using chemical agents in an attempt to disperse rioters.
Local teen Deanel Trout, 14, told the Associated Press that he believes many of the troublemakers were from outside Ferguson and looking for an excuse to steal.
“I can understand the anger and unrest, but I can’t understand the violence and looting,” Trout said.
Others attempted to justify the disorder.
“This is exactly what is supposed to be happening when an injustice is happening in your community,” local resident DeAndre Smith, 30, told the Post-Dispatch. “You have kids getting killed for nothing.”
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III appealed to residents to remain calm and “have faith in the process.”
“It’s a tragedy whenever a young person loses his life,” lamented Knowles.
Brown’s family has retained the services of renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented Trayvon Martin’s family.
“You just can’t fathom as a child puts up his hands, and people continue to shoot,” said Crump. “This child was shot multiple times and left on the ground like a dog. It’s a combination of things like this happening over and over and over again, and people are getting no sense of justice.”
The FBI is investigating Brown’s death. The bureau will determine if any civil rights violations occurred; Attorney General Eric Holder said the case deserves a full review.
St. Louis police claim Brown, who was just days away from starting college, was shot at approximately 2:15 p.m. on Saturday outside an apartment complex in the 2900 block of Canefield Drive.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the teen was walking to his grandmother’s residence at the time.
“I know they killed my son,” McSpadden said during Sunday’s protest. “This was wrong and it was cold-hearted.”
Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., appealed for calm in the community.
“We don’t want no violence,” Brown Sr. told KDSK. “Michael would have wanted no violence. We need justice for our son.”
Friend Dorian Johnson was with Brown as they walked from a convenience store when a police vehicle approached them. An officer allegedly commanded the teens to stop walking in the street and use the sidewalk, but the order was ignored. That angered the officer, who repeated his command, to no avail. The officer then allegedly exited the vehicle to confront the disobedient teens.
What happened next remains unclear, but Johnson told WALB that he and Brown ran away after an officer fired a shot.
“[The officer] shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air, and he started to get down,” recalled Johnson. “But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
“We wasn’t causing harm to nobody,” Johnson added. “We had no weapons on us at all.”
Witness Piaget Crenshaw, 19, was waiting for a ride to work when she says she saw a police officer attempting to place Brown in a squad car. Crenshaw told the Post-Dispatch that she was Brown, his hands raised in the air, try to flee. The teen was shot several times as he attempted to escape, Crenshaw claimed.
Phillip Walker was sitting on the porch of an apartment complex overlooking the scene of the incident. Walker said that Brown “was giving up in the sense of raising his arms and being subdued.”
The officer “had his gun raised and started shooting the individual in the chest multiple times,” Walker told the Associated Press. The shooter then allegedly “stood over him and shot [Brown]” after he fell wounded.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar claimed that officers encountered Brown and another man outside an apartment complex, and that one of the young men pushed an officer into the squad car before the two struggled over the officer’s gun.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that no police dashboard camera video of the incident exists; while the department has purchased dashcams, as well as uniform-mounted cameras, these have not yet been issued to officers.
Brown, who hailed from a high-poverty area but graduated from Normandy High School this year and was just days away from attending Vatterott College, was an aspiring businessman.
“Everyone else wanted to be a football player, a basketball player,” friend Gerard Fuller, who had known Brown since second grade, told the Post-Dispatch. “He wanted to own his own business. He’d say, ‘Let’s make something out of nothing.’”
Other friends described Brown as selfless.
“He was a sharer. He was a giver,” classmate and close friend Bryson Jennings told the Post-Dispatch. “When one of his friends needed something he would give. Mike used to sell candy in middle school. I’d come up to Mike and say, ‘Mike, let me get some Skittles or something.’ I’d offer him a dollar and he’d say, ‘It’s on me.’”
Teachers at Normandy described Brown, a former football player and JROTC member, as a “gentle giant” who didn’t cause trouble, despite struggling to graduate. Friends said he was quiet but possessed a great sense of humor, and loved music — especially hip-hop.
According to the Post-Dispatch, Brown posted a haunting message on his Facebook page as he prepared to begin an exciting new phase of his life:
“If I leave this earth today,” wrote Brown to a friend, “at least you’ll know I care about others more than I cared about my damn self.”