​Stories Diverge in Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen


It’s happened again. A community in Ferguson, Missouri, is furious and in mourning after Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer yesterday after being stopped for walking in the middle of the road.

The St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar held a press conference on Sunday after taking over the investigation. Via Raw Story:

According to Belmar, one of the two teens who were stopped on the street “allegedly pushed the police officer back into the [patrol] car, where he physically assaulted the police officer.”
Belmar confirmed that the teen was unarmed, and said that his “understanding” was that there was a “struggle over the officer’s weapon” inside the police car.
“After that, the officer exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting where the officer, in fact, shot the subject,” he explained.
Belmar added that the Ferguson Police Department would not have asked the St. Louis County Crimes Against Persons Unit to investigate if it was trying to hide something.

Right. A police department bringing in a neighboring police department that holds the same exact kind of authority and biases is not suspicious at all. According to the stories of eye witnesses including the Brown’s friend who was present at the scene, things went down much differently than Belmar described:

…[W]itness Dorin Johnson, who was walking with Brown at the time of the incident, told KTVI that the teen was holding up his hands at the time that he was shot.
“A police officer squad car pulled up,” Johnson recalled. “And when he pulled up, these was his exact words, he said, ‘Get the f*ck on the sidewalk.’ And we told the officer we was not but a minute away from our destination, and we would surely be out of the street.”

Other witnesses have corroborated Johnson’s story that Brown’s arms were in the air when he was shot. Multiple bullet casings were found at the scene, and medical examiners are investigating how many times Brown was shot, though it could take as long as six weeks for an autopsy and toxicology reports to be processed. The unnamed police officer in question who shot and killed Michael Brown is on paid administrative leave.

Yesterday, hundreds of furious protesters gathered to grieve and also to decry yet another murder of a young, unarmed black man at the hands of police, America’s damaging trend.

Following the shooting, as a crowd swelled into the hundreds to protest the incident — with the St Louis Dispatch reporting that the crowd was yelling obscenities and shouting “kill the police”– law enforcement officers from 15 different departments, including riot-control officers, responded to the scene.
According to KMOV’s Cory Stark, there were at least 100 police cars and numerous officers armed with M-16′s flooding the area.”

(Emphasis added. See below.) Because the way to deal with a community that is in immense pain and demanding justice is to try to intimidate them, to show up with semi-automatic rifles, to attempt to censor the reality of tragedy, and to try and stem the overwhelming reminder that the victim was in fact a human being.

There are so many heartbreaking and disturbing aspects to this story including the fact that Brown’s body was left in the street for several hours (some sources saying four hours) while police processed the scene. But the most heartbreaking part is that the racial biases that serve to protect aggressive police officers, and invalidate the people police have hurt or killed, simply thrive unchecked. It will always be up to the aggrieved community to demand justice because justice simply wasn’t built for them.

The St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP has called for an FBI investigation, saying:

“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.”

*Update: The reports that claim the that protesters were chanting “kill the police” are false. The protesters were actually shouting “No justice, no peace”—an unsettlingly fitting misreading.

Image via KTVI.

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