St. Louis County police shot and killed a man just miles from where last month’s cop-killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, ripped a veil from what locals say is a regional problem between blacks and the police.
The shooting also happened to take place in a town where the police department was disbanded three years ago amid widespread allegations of racism, corruption and abuse. It also happens to be where Brown's killer, Officer Darren Wilson, was previously employed.
St. Louis County police say officers shot the suspect on Wednesday night in Jennings, a neighbor of Ferguson, after the man aimed a loaded rifle at them.
Shortly after the shooting Sgt. Brian Schellman told reporters that they’d received a call at about 8:30 pm on Wednesday from a woman who said a man with a gun was at her front door. By the time police responded to the residence the man was gone. About two hours later the woman called police again, saying the man was back but this time without the gun and gave a description of the car he was driving.
Just before 10:45 pm Schellman said that officers were en route to the woman’s home and that as they pulled up they saw a black car slowly approaching them. As they got out of their cars to approach the vehicle, which matched the description of the car the suspect was driving, the officers saw the man brandish a large rifle. The car then accelerated, crashing into two police cars and sending the officers jumping for cover.
The man then jumped out of the car and ran behind a row of townhouses, taking cover behind a piece of parked construction equipment. As officers gave chase, Schellman said the man aimed his rifle at officers. Officers then opened fire on the man, killing him.
Police have not released the dead man’s identity, age or race.
“It appears to be some sort of domestic situation at this point,” Schellman said.
Jennings City Councilwoman Yolonda Fountain-Henderson said that when she got word of the shooting early this morning, her initial thoughts were “Oh, God.”
“With this Michael Brown situation, if anyone is killed by an officer it’s like, everyone’s head is up in the air like wait a minute, what going on, is this killing justifiable,” Fountain-Henderson told MSNBC on Thursday.
Brown was unarmed when he was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Witnesses say Wilson was shot multiple times with his hands up while trying to surrender following an altercation with Wilson at his police car. Police say Wilson shot Brown in self-defense as the 18-year-old was reaching for the officer’s gun.
Fountain-Henderson said it appears at first glance that last night’s shooting is nothing like Brown’s.
“This man was armed and they saw it. When they killed him his hand was still wrapped around the gun,” she said. “They said they had to pry it out of his hand.”
Fountain-Henderson said she’s heard from law enforcement officials that the armed man was in the apartment complex looking for an ex-girlfriend who used to live there.
“It was witnessed by a lot of people,” she said. “That officer could have been killed right there.”
The two St. Louis County police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Darren Wilson of neighboring Ferguson has also been placed on paid administrative pending an investigation into the Brown case. After more than a month in hiding Wilson reportedly emerged publicly for the first time this week to testify before a grand jury that is currently hearing evidence in the shooting. They have until Jan. 7 to determine whether or not Wilson should be criminally charged in Brown’s death.
The Department of Justice has launched parallel investigation to determine if any of Wilson’s actions the day of the killing violated any federal civil rights laws. The DOJ is also investigating the Ferguson Police Department following allegations made by many black residents who say the department has targeted them and treated them unfairly.
Ferguson is nearly 70% black. Ferguson’s police department is about 95% white.
Before joining the Ferguson police department Wilson was a member of the Jennings Police Department. The Department was disbanded three years ago under a cloud of nasty allegations including systemic racism, corruption and excessive force. With the department dismantled St. Louis County police patrol the town.
City leaders in Jennings say Wilson left the department with a clean record. He was later hired by the Ferguson Police Department where earlier this year he earned a commendation for his police work.