The fatal shooting of a black teenager in St. Louis two months after Michael Brown was killed in a neighboring suburb has some in the community drawing parallels between the two incidents, refocusing the spotlight on the city and the issue of urban policing ahead of major protests planned for the area this weekend.
According to St. Louis police, the 18-year-old shot at an off-duty officer working for a private security company in the Shaw neighborhood on Wednesday evening. The officer, identified by police only as a six-year veteran of the force, fired 17 rounds. A St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department press release Thursday afternoon identified the victim Vonderrit D. Myers, Jr., an 18-year old resident of the area.
Before the police identified him as the victim, Teyonna Myers, 23, a resident of Florissant, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the victim was her cousin and also verified his identity.
Activist Alexis Templeton, already protesting at the Ferguson police station on Wednesday, saw the buzz on social media soon after the shooting and immediately headed to St. Louis to join other demonstrators.
“Anything that happens, we want to be there,” said Templeton, 20, when asked why she participated in Wednesday night’s protests, which lasted for several hours. “Anything that involves the police, we want to be there, to make sure there’s no cover up, to have our cameras out so they can’t lie.”
Templeton said the atmosphere was tense, and “a completely different vibe from Ferguson,” where protesters have demonstrated almost daily since Brown’s death on Aug. 9. The protests in Ferguson are now largely peaceful with few or no reports of arrests, but they were initially marked by nightly clashes between groups of mostly unarmed, nonviolent demonstrators and police wearing riot gear, using heavily armored vehicles and lobbing canisters of tear gas into the crowds.
“It was a completely different group of people,” Templeton said of the crowd in St. Louis on Wednesday. “People were pissed last night … I’ve never seen something like that.”
Authorities reported damage to police vehicles, but there were no arrests or reports of looting.
When asked about what may happen Thursday night, Templeton said: “I definitely think there’s going to be some problems.”
“You go to sleep and you wake up, and it’s still on Twitter,” she explained. “You were in that environment. You saw his mom faint last night. That doesn’t go away. I’m still angry.”
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, Templeton said the death of another black man at the hands of police and the treatment of black people by law enforcement remains a point of frustration for her.
“There were cops laughing on the scene last night,” she said. “It’s not funny. You’re killing us.”
Activists were already planning to converge on St. Louis this weekend for “Ferguson October,” a series of actions in response to the Brown shooting and issues raised in the wake of that incident.