Aug 11 2014

32 Arrested in Riots, Looting Over Police Shooting of Unarmed Teen

dont shoot me

A prayer vigil and demonstration for the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown quickly turned to a scene of chaos in Ferguson, MO Sunday night. Local gas stations and businesses were set on fire and looted, two officers were injured, and rioters reportedly destroyed a news van. Before the vigil, approximately 200 protesters gathered in front of the police station, carrying signs with slogans such as “stop police terrorism” and “disarm the police.” Protesters chanted “don’t shoot me.”

About the only thing that both witnesses to the shooting and the police agree on is that Brown was unarmed. The officer involved (his names has not yet been released) states that, after responding to a call, Brown and a second, unidentified individual, pushed the officer into the squad car and attempted to take his gun. There was a struggle, and when Brown exited the vehicle, the officer began shooting. The shooting occurred approximately 35 feet from the vehicle, according to police reports. The reason for the initial call is still unknown. The county police chief, Jon Belmar, states that Brown was shot “more than just a couple but I don’t think it was many more than that.”

However, witnesses claim that when the shooting occurred, Brown had his hands in the air. Dorian Johnson says he was walking down the street with Brown when the officer pulled up and told them to use the sidewalk. They exchanged words, the officer tried to grab Brown, and shots were fired. Piaget Crenshaw, 19, also disputes the police accounts, stating that she saw the officer try to force Brown into a squad car. She states he was shot, hands in the air, after attempting to flee. She took photographs of the scene as it happened, and they were confiscated by police. The county NAACP president reports that Brown was shot once while he was standing, and an additional nine times as he laid in the street. Brown was not from the neighborhood and had been visiting his grandmother at a local apartment complex. He was scheduled to begin attending college classes on Monday.

According to police, there is no video footage of the shooting. The officer did not have a dash cam or body-cam, and the incident was not caught by nearby security cameras.

Family members, teachers, and friends state that Brown was not a trouble maker. They noted that he had been on the high school football team and was a member of the Junior ROTC. Members of the community cite the shooting as another wound in the already tenuous relationship between a predominantly black neighborhood and an all-white police force.

Shortly after the shooting, a crowd of neighbors gathered at the scene, taking pictures and shouting at police. Tensions continued to escalate throughout the day and into Sunday. Over 1,000 protesters blocked traffic, set a local QuickTrip mart on fire, and looted liquor stores, dollar stores, and even a local WalMart. Clothing and cell phone stores also fell victim. Some business owners took refuge in their shops, armed with their own firearms, and were able to scare away angry rioters. Others were not so lucky. Officers from nearly 100 police departments responded to the scene, accompanied by a SWAT team, as shots rang out in the chaos. K-9 units pushed back protesters who continued to gather at the police station. There has been at least one report of tear gas being used.

Some onlookers remarked on Sunday that, while residents’ anger may be justified, that the riots and looting were only hurting their community and themselves. “It sends the wrong kind of message,” one woman said of the looters. “Don’t destroy other people’s property that they worked hard for because something else has happened. One doesn’t outweigh the other, you know. No connection between the two.” Others state the violence and destruction are a way of “fighting back against injustice.” Police have made 32 arrests on charges of theft, assault, or burglary.

The county police say that they are currently investigating the incident. The officer involved has been suspended with pay. Another protest has been scheduled for today.

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