The United States of America is not for black people. We know this, and then we put it out of our minds, and then something happens to remind us. Saturday, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., something like that happened: An unarmed 18-year-old black man was executed by police in broad daylight.
By now, what’s happening in Ferguson is about so many second-order issues—systemic racism, the militarization of police work, and how citizens can redress grievances, among other things—that it’s worth remembering what actually happened here.
Michael Brown was walking down the middle of the street in Ferguson’s Canfield Green apartment complex around noon on Saturday with his friend Dorin Johnson when the two were approached by a police officer in a police truck. The officer exchanged words with the boys. The officer attempted to get out of his car. At this point, two narratives split.
According to the still-unnamed officer, one of the two boys shoved him back into the vehicle and then wrestled for his sidearm, discharging one shot into the cabin. The two ran, and the police officer once again stepped from his vehicle and shot at the fleeing teenagers multiple times, killing Brown.
According to Johnson and other eye witnesses, however, the cop ordered the friends to “get the fuck on the sidewalk,” but the teenagers said they had almost reached their destination. That’s when the officer slammed his door open so hard that it bounced off of Brown and closed again. The cop then reached out and grabbed Brown by the neck, then by the shirt.
“I’m gonna shoot you,” the cop said.
The cop shot him once, but Brown pulled away, and the pair were still able to run away together. The officer fired again. Johnson ducked behind a car, but the cop’s second shot caused Brown to stop about 35 feet away from the cruiser, still within touching distance of Johnson. Multiple witnesses say this is when Brown raised his hands in the air to show he was unarmed. Johnson remembered that Brown also said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” The officer then shot him dead.
After that, the narratives dovetail again. Brown was left where he died, baking in the Missouri heat for hours, before he was removed by authorities. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave.
Credit: Greg Howard
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