Anger and disbelief filled the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed following a confrontation with a police officer while he was walking down the street on Saturday afternoon.
Piaget Crenshaw, a witness to the shooting, told Fox2 St. Louis that Brown and a friend, Dorin Johnson, were walking in the street when a police officer drove up and told them to get on the sidewalk. After a verbal confrontation, Crenshaw said the officer got out of his car and fired a shot and when the teens started running, fired another. “Crenshaw and Johnson say the teen [Brown] held up his hands to show he did not have a weapon, however the officer fired at him two more times and he collapsed and died in the street,” the news channel reported.
Another witness told local news station KMOV that the officer “was in the car shooting this boy.” The woman said, “he threw his hands up and he shot him and the boy fell, then he shot him some more.”
During a Sunday news conference, however, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters that the “genesis was a physical confrontation,” as the officer allegedly attempted to get out of his car and was pushed back in by Brown, after which a struggle over the officer’s weapon ensued. One shot was fired in the car and, as the officer exited his vehicle, several more. Belmar confirmed that Brown was unarmed and while he could not say how many times the teen was shot, it was “more than just a couple.”
Residents of the predominantly African-American suburb took to the streets to protest the killing on Saturday, with members of the crowd reportedly yelling “Kill the police” and firing warning shots, which prompted the police to call in more than 60 additional officers, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Whether residents were indeed chanting “Kill the police,” however, has been called into question; video from a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department shows residents chanting “Killer cops have got to go.” Video from a Saturday night demonstration shows residents with their arms raised, chanting “Don’t shoot me!” and “We are Michael Brown” in front of officers holding back barking dogs. Outlets like the Post-Dispatch tempered headlines describing a “mob reaction” after backlash on social media.
Things got tense in Ferguson tonight after police shooting earlier in the day pic.twitter.com/PUnIh8zkmd
— David Carson (@PDPJ) August 10, 2014
The protests continued into Sunday in advance of the St. Louis County Police department press conference.
What the hell is going on in Ferguson?! pic.twitter.com/S5Yjnns6bU
— Tammie Holland (@TammieHolland) August 9, 2014
— George Sells (@GeorgeSells) August 10, 2014
"Justice. Now." https://t.co/otf7t4xuBq
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 10, 2014
The officer involved in the incident, who was not named, has been placed on paid administrative leave and will be interviewed more extensively on Sunday, according to Belmar. The Bureau of Crimes Against Persons has been asked to investigate and the St. Louis County Police Chief said he would turn over the results of their investigation to the county prosecuting attorney to determine whether any charges should be filed.
As for criticism over the length of time Brown’s body was left in the street, reportedly several hours, Belmar said it took a “very long time to process the scene” and the police department was careful to practice “due diligence.”
The local chapter of the NAACP has also called for the FBI to investigate the shooting. “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,” John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP said.
Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said her son “doesn’t kill, steal or rob. He doesn’t do any of that.” Brown was scheduled to begin classes at Vatterott College on Monday.