A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed, black 18-year-old named Michael Brown on Saturday, sparking riots and protests in the St. Louis suburb. At least 50 people were arrested in three days.
Details have been hazy about the shooting, but two competing stories have emerged. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says Brown assaulted the officer first, and then the two began to struggle with the officer’s gun.
The police version is at odds with another story, corroborated by multiple witnesses, including 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was “within arm’s reach” of Brown when the first shot was fired. Johnson spoke to MSNBC last night and gave his account. Here’s a summary of his version of the events. (Police have reportedly refused to interview Johnson.)
On Saturday afternoon, somewhere between 1:40 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., Johnson says he saw Brown walking on the street and went to talk to him. As the two caught up, they headed back to Johnson’s house. When they were a 1-minute walk away, they went to cross the street. As they walked in the middle of the road — jaywalking — a police car drove up. The officer told the two to go on the sidewalk, according to Johnson.
“His exact words were get the f — k on the sidewalk,” Johnson told MSNBC.
Johnson told the officer they were almost at their destination. Thinking the officer was giving them leave, they began walking again. Instead of driving away, the officer switched his police truck in reverse, tires screeching, and nearly hit the two, according to Johnson.
At that point, Johnson said, he and Brown were in line with the officer’s side door. The officer asked them what the two had said and then tried to push his door open, according to Johnson. Because the two were so close to the door, Johnson says the door hit Brown and closed. The officer then allegedly grabbed Brown by the neck.
Brown then tried to pull away to avoid being choked, Johnson says.
“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt … It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you,'” Johnson said.
The two realised the officer had pulled out a hand gun and pointed it at Brown. The officer repeated, “I’ll shoot.” Seconds later, the first shot went off. Johnson says the officer let go after he shot Brown.
Brown and Johnson then ran towards a line of three cars on the side of the street. Johnson went behind the first, but Brown ran past. Brown yelled “Keep running, bro!” But by the time he got to the third car, the officer shot Brown in the back, according to Johnson.
Johnson says Brown stopped, put his hands up, turned around, and yelled he didn’t have a gun.
The officer allegedly shot several more times, Brown fell to the ground, and Johnson ran to his apartment.
“It was just horrible to watch … It was definitely like being shot like an animal,” Johnson told local news station KSDK.
The account of another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, 19, seems to match Johnson’s.
The St. Louis County police department have opened its investigation of the incident. Meanwhile, the FBI has announced that it will open a parallel civil rights investigation of the shooting.
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