Black people cloaked in horror and pain, swept in a frenzy of shock are suddenly pounded with rubber bullets and engulfed by clouds of tear gas. This is not a scene retold from the turbulent Civil Rights era; instead, it describes events that occurred in Ferguson, Mo., just days after Aug. 9, 2014, when 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by 28-year-old local police officer Darren Wilson. The community’s bottled-up rage finally exploded, with days of protests and rioting causing police officers to descend in military gear. Some pointed rifles at peaceful protesters while tanks rolled down the main strip. The response only stoked the rising fire of racial tension that already existed in the St. Louis suburb.
On that sunny Saturday morning, Brown was with his friend Dorian Johnson. A recent high school graduate, Brown was said to be just days away from his first class at a nearby trade school. According to Johnson, Officer Wilson, a member of the Ferguson Police Department for nearly three years, confronted them for walking in the street. The friends were not, police say, approached because of the strong-armed robbery of a convenience store just moments before, during which Brown is allegedly seen stealing cigarillos on surveillance video.
Johnson is one of five eyewitnesses to similarly recount what happened next. Allegedly, after ignoring police orders, a tussle ensued as Wilson tried to force Brown into his police car. Witnesses claim that Brown ran from the officer, who discharged his weapon. The 6-foot-4-inch teen, who weighed 292 pounds, then turned around with his arms up—the international gesture for surrendering—to show that he was not carrying a weapon. Wilson is said to have fired no fewer than six shots—including two that hit Brown in the head.
Read more in the October 2014 issue of EBONY Magazine.