On August 9th, 18 year old African American Michael Brown was fatally shot by Caucasian police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was unarmed and had no previous criminal record, despite being a suspect in a “strong-armed” robbery at a convenience store, only minutes before the shooting incident. Officer Darren Wilson, was in the vicinity out of coincidence and unaware of the robbery when he encountered Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson when they allegedly obstructed traffic on the street. An altercation occurred between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson through Wilson’s police car after ordering Brown and Johnson to move off the street. A shot was fired from the vehicle, causing the two men to flee. Officer Wilson left his car and pursued the men, shooting approximately six times which killed Michael Brown after repeatedly stating to the officer that he had no gun.
The day after Michael Brown’s death, news of the incident caused both peaceful protests and widespread looting in the St. Louis suburb due to many viewing Brown’s untimely death as unfair and racist treatment of the black community. Two vigils were held by the community of Ferguson in memory of Michael Brown. At 9pm, vandalism by protesters began, resulting in riots with police for five hours straight. Nightly conflict between civilians and the police lasts for twelve consecutive days, including the deployment of tear gas bombs, rubber bullets and military equipment.
The civil unrest in Ferguson escalated quickly in the days after the shooting of Michael Brown; due to imposed nightly curfews, the arrests of both peaceful protesters and the journalists Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilley of The Huffington Post, and the shooting of a protester (who was critically injured from the incident). On August 18th, after violent clashes during the curfew, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon issued an order to deploy the National Guard to “help restore peace and order and to protect the citizens of Ferguson.” Governor Nixon withdrew the National Guard three days later after observing improvements in the social unrest.
Michael Brown’s funeral was held on August 25th at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. Around 4,500 people attended the funeral. By request of the Brown family, supporters suspended their protests on the day of the funeral out of respect.
The Ferguson Police Department has come under fire over their actions during shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests the days following the incident by the media and federal and state officials for using excessive and unnecessary tactics. The St. Louis Police Department is currently conducting an investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. They are investigating whether or not Officer Darren Wilson made a justified and lawful killing. The eyewitness testimonials also clash with each other, particularly between Dorian Johnson and Darren Wilson, over whether or not Brown attacked Wilson. On August 20th, the St. Louis county grand jury commenced hearing the evidence of the shooting to determine if a crime was committed and if there is probable cause that the defendant Darren Wilson committed it. The St. Louis County prosecutor said that the state will be finished presenting the evidence to the grand jury by mid-October. On September 16th, Wilson testified before the grand jury for approximately four hours, and was cooperative to the investigation, although he was not obliged to testify. The verdict of the trial may not be released until at the latest January 2015.