Michael Brown reportedly unarmed when Ferguson police shot him dead
The fatal shooting of a black teenager by police sent hundreds of angry residents out of their apartments Saturday in a St. Louis suburb, igniting shouts of “kill the police” during a confrontation that lasted several hours.
A St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP called for the FBI to look into the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis.
Witnesses told St. Louis’s News 4 that Brown was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was shot. Police have not confirmed these reports.
Dorian Johnson told News 4 that he was walking with Brown when a police officer confronted them. He said Brown tried to surrender after the cop fired his weapon.
“Once my friend [Brown] felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air,” Johnson said. “He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, said she saw him running in her neighbourhood Saturday afternoon when she passed him in her car. Just minutes later, after she returned home, she heard a commotion and went outside to check on it. Less than two blocks away, she found Brown’s body.
“He was running this way,” she said. “When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported several distraught relatives were outside talking with neighbours, including Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and stepfather, Louis Head. Head held a sign that read: “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!”
A spokesman with the St. Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the shooting at the request of the local department, confirmed a Ferguson police officer shot the man. The spokesman didn’t give the reason for the shooting. St. Louis County police said a large crowd confronted officers following the shooting, yelling such things as “kill the police.”
John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.” He alluded to the 2012 racially-charged shooting of a 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighbourhood watch organizer who was subsequently acquitted of murder charges, as well as the death of a New York man from a police chokehold after he was confronted for selling individual cigarettes on the street.
“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.
Gaskin said officials in the organization spoke with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who told them the teenager had been shot twice.
By early Saturday night, dozens of police cars remained parked near the shooting scene as mourners left votive candles, rose petals, a large stuffed animal and other remembrances at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the street. At the height of the post-shooting tensions, police at the scene called for about 60 other police units to respond to the area in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are black.
Harris said her grandson had recently graduated high school and was looking forward to the future, including possibly attending college.
“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“We are hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jackson said.
Gaskin said the angry crowd was reacting to a “trauma.”
“Anytime you have this type of event that’s taken place, emotions are going to run high,” he said. “But for 600 people to gather around an area to see where a man is lying in the street, that means something happened that should have not happened.”