Police murder unarmed, fleeing Michael Brown, 18, in St. Louis suburb

by Abena Agyeman-Fisher

Michael Brown’s step-father, Louis Head, indicts the police.
Michael Brown’s step-father, Louis Head, indicts the police.

Ferguson, Mo., Aug 10, 2014 – A local NAACP chapter has called for a federal investigation into the death of a Black teenager who was shot by police in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed Saturday afternoon near his grandmother’s house by a Ferguson police officer. St. Louis County police have not given a reason for the shooting, which happened in a predominantly Black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis.

After the shooting, a confrontation between police and hundreds of neighborhood residents lasted several hours, with shouts of “kill the police.” At the height of the post-shooting tensions, 100 police cars from 15 departments, according to KSDK, responded to the area near the Canfield Green Apartments in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are Black. Officers were armed with M-16s, according to KMOV.

KMOV also reports witnesses saying Brown was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was shot multiple times by an officer. According to Huffington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that protesters came face to face with police at the site of the shooting, raising their arms in the air and chanting, “Don’t shoot!” “A dumpster was reportedly lit on fire. As tempers cooled, mourners participated in a prayer circle and vigil.”

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Slate.com reports: “After a night of protests in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown, officials confirmed the 18-year-old was not armed and was running away when he was shot ‘more than just a couple’ of times, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.” “They told me how many times my son was shot. Eight,” said Michael’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, according to USA Today.

The St. Louis County Police are investigating the shooting. But John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

Michael Brown, 18
Michael Brown, 18

He alluded to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was subsequently acquitted of murder charges, as well as the New York man, Eric Garner, who died from a police chokehold after he was confronted for selling individual untaxed cigarettes.

“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she would ask the U.S. Justice Department on Monday for a formal investigation.

Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, said she saw him running in her neighborhood Saturday afternoon. Just minutes later, she heard a commotion and went outside to check on it. She found Brown’s body less than two blocks away.

“When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”

With his post on Twitter of a photo of Michael’s body lying in the street, Michael Skolnik tweets, “Mike Brown’s body was left in the street for four hours before the police removed him. .”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports: “Eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, 19, was waiting for a ride to work when she said she saw the police officer attempting to place Brown in the rear seat of a squad car.

Lesley McSpadden is comforted by her husband, Louis Head, after her 18-year-old son, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by police in the middle of the street in Ferguson, Mo., near St. Louis on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. – Photo: Huy Mach, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, AP
Lesley McSpadden is comforted by her husband, Louis Head, after her 18-year-old son, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by police in the middle of the street in Ferguson, Mo., near St. Louis on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. – Photo: Huy Mach, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, AP

“She then observed the teen, hands in the air, attempt to flee. Several shots were fired at Brown as he ran, Crenshaw said, striking him in the head and chest.

“Crenshaw said police asked and she complied with a request that she turn photos of the scene over to authorities.”

Another witness reports she was waiting for a ride when she saw Brown near a police vehicle, according to Viral Global News. He was not cuffed, but reportedly had his hands up in the air. The witness has turned over cell phone footage to investigators.

Harris said her grandson had recently graduated from high school and was looking forward to the future. “My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”

Michael’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said he was looking forward to starting school at Vatterott College next week, according to Slate.com.

Michael Brown’s grieving mother spreads flowers on the street where her son was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. – Photo: John Kelly, KSDK
Michael Brown’s grieving mother spreads flowers on the street where her son was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. – Photo: John Kelly, KSDK

McSpadden had harsh words Saturday for authorities: “You’re not God. You don’t get to decide when you get to take somebody from here,” she told KSDK.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave.

“We are hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jackson said.

Crowds marched through the streets Sunday morning and afternoon, calling for justice, reports USA Today. Brown’s family is asking for the crowd to gather at the crime scene Sunday at 8 p.m. for a candlelight vigil.

Protesters are calling for 10,000 people to join them in protesting at 10 a.m. Monday at the Ferguson Police Department. A peaceful prayer vigil outside the police department is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, announced today: “I just spoke with Leslie McSpadden, the grandfather of Michael Brown. He has asked me to come to St. Louis in light of the police killing of his grandson to assist the family in achieving a fair investigation and justice. I assured him that National Action Network will stand with the family, as we have done for families around the country and assist in any way that we can.”

Abena Agyeman-Fisher is the senior editor of NewsOne, where this story first appeared. Most recently she worked for AOL as the news programming manager of Black Voices and for the New York Times Co. as an associate health editor. Abena, a Spelman College graduate, has been published in The Source, Vibe, Vibe Vixen, New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger, About.com, BlackVoices.com, Jane and Upscale Magazines. She can be reached at afisher@interactiveone.com. Bay View staff contributed to this story.