It’s time to mourn another dead Black child. Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer on August 9. Authorities tell the Associated Press that Brown was unarmed.
Brown was shot on the 2900 block of Canfield Drive, according to the St. Louis County Police Department. Dorian Johnson – a friend of the victim – told KMOV, St. Louis’ CBS-affiliate station, that an officer confronted and aimed his rifle at them while they were walking to Brown’s grandmother house.
“He (the officer) shot again and once my friend 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.”
Another witness has a similar account of the shooting. Piaget Crenshaw, 19, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that she saw the police officer “attempting to place Brown in the rear seat of a squad car.” Crenshaw observed Brown with his hands in the air as the officer fired bullets into his head and chest.
Despite these matching stories, the St. Louis County Police Department maintains that the shooting was justified.
“The genesis of this was a physical confrontation,” Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, said at a news conference. According to Belmar, Brown “physically assaulted the police officer” and attempted to steal his weapon. At that time, the officer fired and killed Brown. He was approximately 35 feet away from the police vehicle at the time of his death. Though there were multiple shell casings recovered at the scene, Belmar wasn’t sure how many times Brown was hit. Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said that the police shot her son eight times.
Belmar said the police department is conducting a thorough investigation. However, Ferguson police cars are not equipped with dash cameras, according to Officer Brian Schellman, a St. Louis Police Department spokesman.
“There is no video in the apartment complex,” Schellman said. “We are still trying to determine if any witnesses recorded the incident.
The accused officer is on paid leave, but that isn’t enough for a grieving mother. McSpadden told the Associated Press that she’d like to see her son’s killer fired and incarcerated. “I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty,” she said.
The Ferguson community is also seeking answers. Following Brown’s death, hundreds of demonstrators staged a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil to demand justice for the slain teen, who was set to begin classes at Missouri’s Vatterott College today. Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, held a sign that read, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son.” More than 100 officers – including some dressed in riot gear – were dispatched to Ferguson, in response to the protest.
The police response left many disappointed. Antonio French, a city councilman in St. Louis, told the New York Times that he’s dissatisfied with the police department’s explanation.
“It’s a textbook example of how not to handle the situation,” French said. “Ferguson has a white government and a white mayor, but a large black population. This situation has brought out whatever rifts were between that minority community and the Ferguson government.” Ferguson’s population
The St. Louis-chapter of the NAACP agrees. Esther Haywood, president of the chapter, said in a statement: “We are hurt to hear that yet another teenaged boy has been slaughtered by law enforcement, especially in light of the recent death of Eric Garner in New York, who was killed for selling cigarettes. We plan to do everything within our power to ensure that the Ferguson Police Department as well as the St. Louis County Police Department releases all details pertinent to the shooting. We strongly encourage residents to stay away from the crime scene so that no additional citizens are injured.”
The U.S. Justice Department is also monitoring all developments in the case at the request of Attorney General Eric Holder, according to spokeswoman Dena Iverson.
Yet, none of this quells the sadness. We’ve buried Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Rekia Boyd, Pearlie Golden, and a multitude of others. With the death of Brown, it’s clear that open season on Black folks is just beginning.