FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — After an unarmed black teenager was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, the city north of downtown St. Louis has been the scene of violent protests. Here’s a look at the key elements of the shooting and the unrest that’s followed:
THE SHOOTING: The shooting happened Saturday after an officer encountered 18-year-old Michael Brown and another man on the street. Police have said that one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told reporters that the officer ordered them out of the street, then tried to open his door so close to the men that it “ricocheted” back, apparently upsetting the officer. Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend’s neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. Johnson and another witness both say Brown had his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.
THE UNREST: Since the shooting, crowds have gathered to protest Brown’s death. On Sunday night, a day after the shooting, some residents were seen looting stores, damaging buildings and vandalizing property. Since then, officers from multiple departments in riot gear and in military equipment have clashed nightly with protesters, who chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Police have used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse large crowds, including on Wednesday night when some people threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers. The police response has drawn heavy criticism, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that the state would be taking over supervising security, with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson — a Ferguson native who is black — leading the effort.
THE POLICE TACTICS: The events in Ferguson have been seen as part of a growing trend among police departments around the country. The American Civil Liberties Union in June released a report stating that police were overwhelmingly relying on SWAT raids — involving the use of assault rifles, battering rams and flash-bang grenades — for routine work such as searching for small amounts of drugs and serving warrants.
THE INVESTIGATION: Brown’s death is being investigated by St. Louis County police at the request of the smaller police department in Ferguson. The FBI has also opened an investigation into possible civil rights violations. The city and county have faced criticism for refusing to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing threats against that officer and others. The hacker group Anonymous on Thursday released a name purported to be that of the officer, but the Ferguson police chief said that the name was incorrect.
THE PUBLIC DISCUSSION: Some civil rights leaders have drawn comparisons between Brown’s death and that of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder charges. The St. Louis case has provoked a broad discussion on social media sites about the death of young black men in racially tinged shootings. On Twitter, a campaign using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown has prompted many black users to post photos of themselves and ask how they might be portrayed in news reports if they became shooting victims.
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