The fatal shooting of an unarmed African American teen in Ferguson, Mo. by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson Saturday, August 9, has given rise to an FBI civil rights investigation, protests and local rioting.
The cause of the altercation between Michael Brown, 18, and Wilson, whose identity wasn’t released for weeks after the incident, remains unclear as witnesses to the event tell one story and law enforcement another.
Dorian Johnson, 22, told CNN that he and Brown were walking to a family member’s home when police yelled at them to get out of the street. As the two explained that they were about to arrive at their destination, Wilson became angry, aggressively driving forward and hitting brown with the car door.
Dorian and an injured Brown struggled to run away, but Brown was shot numerous times, forcing him to slow down as he held his hands above his head in surrender, begging Wilson to stop shooting.
Moments later, Dorian said Wilson fired another shot, killing Brown.
In contrast, Ferguson Police share a completely disparate report, claiming Brown attacked Wilson inside his vehicle, struggled for his weapon causing an initial shot to be fired inside the car.
Then, Ferguson police say Brown and Dorian ran from the scene, and Brown was shot and killed several feet away.
Wilson shot Brown a total of six times during the altercation. A privately conducted autopsy revealed that it was the sixth shot to the top of the head that killed Brown, and the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office confirmed that the cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head and chest, ABC News said.
Although the two stories remain divided, one factor that rings true among all accounts is that Brown was unarmed at the time of the incident. Belmar said that every bullet casing from the scene belonged to Wilson, CNN reports.
Since Brown’s death, tension has skyrocketed in the Ferguson area, a working class suburb of 21,000, where a history of distrust and conflict exists between residents who are predominantly black and a primarily white police force, CNN said.
The largest protests have been peaceful, according to the Los Angeles Times, where the slogan “Hands up, don’t shoot,” can be seen on posters and acted out by protesters, reminding those that Brown was unarmed and reportedly in a position of surrender when he was shot.
However, many protests have transformed into local riots throughout the weeks following Brown’s death.
Ferguson locals were upset that officials did not immediately reveal Wilson’s identity, the Alton Daily News reports. However, Wilson’s name was not disclosed at first because death threats were made to a misidentified officer from an incorrect rumor, the Los Angeles Times said.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that details about the case would not be released to the public as the investigation is still underway and authorities need witnesses to stay credible, the Los Angeles Times said.
Frustration due to lack of information surrounding the case has lead to the vandalization of local businesses which police reportedly have controlled using tear gas and rubber bullets to control the uproar and close off areas, ABC news said.
Riots continued in Ferguson on Tuesday, August 19, when police fatally shot a man who had charged officers with a knife. Others have been wounded and numerous arrests have been made.
In response to violent outbreaks, local authorities are urging protesters to rally peacefully during the day to avoid causing any more harm to an already shaken community.
President Obama has weighed in as well saying in a statement earlier in the week that the FBI, civil rights attorneys from the Justice Department and the St. Louis County Police Department are each currently investigating the Ferguson shooting, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed.
“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” Obama said according to The Wire.
The St. Louis County prosecutor said that results from the shooting and whether or not Wilson will be indicted may take until October to decide, as a grand jury must carefully examine evidence from the case.
Brown was a recent high school graduate scheduled to begin college courses the following Monday, two days after he was killed. Friends called him “Big Mike,” and his mother Lesley McSpadden referred to her son as a “Gentle Giant.”