After an unarmed black teenager was shot by a police officer, a St. Louis suburb endured two nights of violence sparked by racial tensions. Here’s a look at the key elements of the shooting and the unrest that followed:
THE SHOOTING: Authorities have been vague about what led the officer to open fire, saying only that Saturday’s shooting was preceded by some kind of scuffle between the officer and a man. At some point during that altercation, the officer’s weapon discharged inside a patrol car. Two witnesses who said they saw the shooting reported that 18-year-old Michael Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.
Ferguson police confirmed that Brown was shot multiple times. They say there’s no video footage of the shooting from any nearby buildings or any police dashboard cameras.
The officer who fired on Brown has not been publicly identified. One of the witnesses said he was white.
THE UNREST: On two consecutive nights, crowds have gathered to protest Brown’s death, sometimes looting stores, setting fire to buildings and vandalizing property. They also taunted police and assaulted journalists. More than three dozen people have been arrested. Brown’s family and civil-rights groups have pleaded for the community to stay calm.
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, looking into possible civil rights violations. Attorney General Eric Holder said such inquiries are “critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
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 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 prompted many black users to post photos of themselves and ask how they might be portrayed in news reports if they became shooting victims.