A St. Louis police officer fatally shot a young black man on Wednesday night, sparking protests in the south of the city just a day before thousands of protesters are expected to arrive in Ferguson, Missouri for rallies and marches over the killing of Michael Brown.
The young man—described by police as an 18-year-old black man—was fatally wounded while being pursued by an officer who had observed him acting suspiciously and pursued him. The man shot at the officer “at least three times” during the chase; the officer fired 17 shots at the man.
The shooting—16 miles from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson—set off protests overnight, threatening to aggravate the precarious relations between the communities and police ahead of an emotionally charged weekend.
Brown’s shooting on Aug. 9 prompted days of demonstrations in Ferguson, which worsened when police armed themselves with military-style weapons and equipment, cracking down on protests with tear gas and arrests. Ferguson has become a symbol for those who see Brown’s death as a symptom of discriminatory policing and excessive force. When Ferguson's own police department struggled to control the protests, it was St. Louis' police force that took over security.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters around 1 a.m. CT that an officer, a six-year veteran of the force, was off-duty and working a side job as a security guard when he saw three young men acting suspiciously. After a “physical altercation” between the officer and the man, the fire fight began. It’s unclear how many times the officer’s bullets hit the suspect; the officer was unharmed. A 9mm Ruger was recovered at the scene, as were three projectiles in the direction of the officer.
Dotson said the suspect was known to police, though he wouldn’t elaborate, suggesting that the deceased had a juvenile record.
Calls for demonstrations were spread on social media; police shut down streets to make space for the protests. No protesters were arrested, but several police cars were damaged. At last check, 50 protesters were still demonstrating, Dotson told reporters, promising to protect their ability to police.
The shooting is just the latest in a summer of high-profile incidents between African-Americans and white police officers, a number of which have been fatal.
Disturbing footage recently emerged in which a traffic stop for an unworn seat belt ended with cops drawing their weapons, demanding that one of the passengers, a black man, exit the car; and when he refused -- saying he feared for his safety -- smashing the car window and Tasering him twice. The family filed a lawsuit this week.
In New York, a local website obtained footage of a young, black man suspected of possessing marijuana being pistol-whipped and punched while surrendering to police.
Many of these encounters have been caught on camera -- shedding light on the brutally aggressive force used by officers across the country.