Another Police Shooting In Missouri
Nearly exactly two months to the day after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, another African-American man has been shot and killed in the St. Louis area, and it has set off another round of protests:
An off-duty police officer shot and killed a black teenager in St. Louis on Wednesday night, setting off a demonstration just days ahead of long-scheduled protests in Missouri about the use of lethal force by the authorities.
The St. Louis police chief, D. Samuel Dotson III, said at a news conference that the teenager had fired at least three shots toward the officer, a six-year veteran who was working in the city’s Shaw neighborhood for a private security firm. Chief Dotson said that the officer had fired 17 rounds, but that he did not know how many times the teenager had been hit.
The teenager’s family disputed the police account, and a woman who said she was his cousin told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had been unarmed.
“He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun,” the cousin, Teyonna Myers, told the newspaper. “It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”
Chief Dotson did not name the teenager or the officer involved in Wednesday’s shooting, but said the officer’s actions were under review by police officials who are members of a newly formed unit that investigates lethal force episodes.
At a news conference early Thursday, Chief Dotson said that the gunfire began after the teenager and others with him fled from the officer. The officer and the teenager who was killed, Chief Dotson said, eventually became involved in “a physical altercation.”
Soon after, the chief said, the teenager fired a handgun toward the officer, prompting the officer to open fire.
Word of the shooting quickly spread, and Chief Dotson said that several police cars were damaged during ensuing demonstrations. No arrests were made.
“No businesses were looted,” Chief Dotson said. “No windows were smashed, and I hope that continues to be.”
The Associated Press reported that much of the crowd had dissipated by about 1 a.m.
Chief Dotson said the teenager who had been killed was “no stranger to law enforcement,” but he declined to elaborate.
The Atlantic and Talking Points Memo both go into further detail about the conflicting details that are coming out about this shooting in the initial hours, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions in this case. If it does turn out that that the teenager who was shot was indeed firing at the officer, or was part of a group that included someone who was firing, then that would take the case completely out of anything similar to the Brown shooting and make it seem more like a case of justifiable homicide. The problem, of course, is that thanks to the Brown shooting and its aftermath, as well as the years that proceeded it, there doesn’t seem to be much trust between the police and the African-American community in the area. Given that, it’s unlikely that the community is going to take what the police are saying about this shooting at face value, nor should they necessarily do so. Perhaps more importantly, this shooting comes on the eve of a weekend of protests in the area over the Brown shooting and the investigation. An event like this is only likely to stir up passions if not brought under control.