Protesters rallied in St. Louis, MO on Wednesday over the death of 25-year-old Cary Ball Jr, who was shot 25 times by police officers last month. Police say Ball refused to pull over for a traffic stop, eventually crashed into a parked car, and started running. According to police, Ball pointed a semi-automatic handgun at the officers, prompting them to open fire.
Several witnesses who spoke to the family, however, say Ball threw his gun on the ground and was walking toward police with his hands up to surrender when he was shot. Some unverified reports say 7 of the 25 shots hit him in the back. Police say there was no surveillance video in the area to verify exactly what happened.
Ball was an honor student with a 3.86 GPA, majoring in human services at Forest Park Community College, where he had been celebrated as an “emerging scholar.” According to family and friends, Ball was working to reform his life after being convicted of armed robbery when he was 17. His older brother, Carlos Ball, said Cary probably ran from the police because, as an ex-convict, it was illegal for him to possess a gun.
The two officers have been placed on administrative leave as homicide detectives investigate the shooting, but this is hardly the first time questions have been raised over the St. Louis Police Department’s conduct. In February, a city cop was accused of choking a man in a wheelchair, who was then arrested immediately after testifying at the officer’s disciplinary hearing. A video showing a cop beating and pepper-spraying a man went viral in 2011, revealing that the cop had stayed on the force despite multiple lawsuits alleging brutality.
The family is being represented by a firm that has also sued the city on behalf of inmates who allege guards forced them to fight each other “gladiator-style” for the staff’s amusement.
Police misconduct has come under intensified scrutiny as the media picks up more reports of young African American boys and men being shot to death under questionable circumstances. Last year, police claimed 21-year-old Chavis Carter shot himself in the head in the back of a patrol car, even though he was handcuffed and had been frisked for weapons. Sixteen-year-old Kimani Gray was shot 7 times (3 times in the back) by New York police whose claim the teenager threatened them with a gun is disputed by many eyewitnesses. On Wednesday, a 14-year-old African American boy carrying a puppy was choked by Miami police because he was giving them “dehumanizing stares.”