By Dr. J. A. Salaam
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
FERGUSON, Mo. (FinalCall.com) – Tensions over the police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr., 18, by a White police officer here and the unrelated shooting of 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. in nearby St. Louis have not eased—and are unlikely to go away soon.
Recent press coverage and an announcement by the St. Louis police union have some charging a smear campaign is underway given media leaks from secret investigations and major media stories that use anonymous sources.
A widely reported New York Times article used anonymous sources to publish what was allegedly told to “government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation.” The Times sources were not apparently on the grand jury hearing evidence in the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown nor part of the federal probe. The Times piece said officer Darren Wilson told investigators that he feared for his life after he was allegedly pinned and attacked in his vehicle by young Brown. Two shots were fired in the car and one struck the teenager before he ran away from officer Wilson, according to the Times.
“What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” Benjamin L. Crump told the Times, dismissing Officer Wilson’s account of what happened in the SUV that fateful day. Officer Wilson should be indicted by the grand jury and his case sent to trial, said Atty. Crump. “He can say what he wants to say in front of a jury. They can listen to all the evidence and the people can have it transparent so they know that the system works for everybody.”
The Brown family lawyer continued, “The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that it obtained a copy of the official autopsy, which has not been released, and a toxicology report that showed Mr. Brown had traces of marijuana in his system. These leaks and anonymous reports, usually followed by analysis that purports to back officer Wilson, have many angry and convinced the bits and pieces for information are designed to lessen reaction to a failure to indict the officer.
Community organizers are concerned there will be chaos if Darren Wilson is not indicted. “To see the evolution of this event it concerns me that law enforcement in place would go to this extreme to protect what everybody sees as being wrong … this individual should have been indicted the day of the shooting. They took it to the grand jury to release the responsibility of that prosecutor’s office. This is not the normal procedure and we can’t expect the normal results,” said Amir of the Peacekeepers, a group that helps keep people safe while protesting.
“We are going to have chaos because the people are dissatisfied with the same system that doesn’t give them justice,” Amir said.
A meeting Oct. 19 in St. Louis included about 20 people, including Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Pastor Ronald Bobo of Westside Missionary Baptist Church, the Peacekeepers and others discussing reactions if officer Wilson is not indicted.
“Congressman Clay what’s your position with the military vehicles being used on the people?” Paul Muhammad of the Peacekeepers asked.
“It was presented to us (Congress) right after 9-11 and we were under the wrong impression of their use, it was intended for a possible attack from terrorists, not civilians in the streets,” said the congressman.
Mourning, questions follow death of a son
Funeral services for Vonderrit Myers, Jr., were held Oct. 26 and Prince of Peace Church in Berkeley, Mo., was full. The young Black male was shot and killed by a police officer working as private security in the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis. The 18-year-old was one of three young Black males the still unnamed officer approached and ending up chasing. According to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, Myers, Jr., who was running away, then started aggressively coming back towards the uniformed police officer. The officer warned the young man to “stop, surrender, you’re under arrest,” the police chief said. The officer claimed the young man continued to approach, a physical altercation ensued, the officer pulled a grey sweatshirt off the young man, and noticed a gun, the chief said. The young man ran away. Then he turned, fired three shots at the officer but missed, said the chief. The officer returned fired, discharging 17 shots and killing Myers, Jr., said Chief Dotson.
Later the police union released a report saying the young man, who was wearing a monitoring device and facing a gun charge, had gun powder on his hands and clothes.
According to the police report, the 9mm gun that Myers allegedly used was reported stolen on September 26, 2014. The make of the gun that police now report finding differs from the one that St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson initially mentioned after the incident occurred. Mr. Dotson had said they found a Ruger 9mm, and now they report finding a 9mm Smith & Wesson, like the one in a Myers’ photo, the St. Louis American reported. Jermaine Wooten, one of the family’s lawyers, say that the autopsy results conflict with the officer’s account. According to Atty. Wooten, police reported that Mr. Myers was facing the officer the whole time. Additionally, Dr. Michael Graham, the police department’s medical examiner, said Mr. Myers’ DNA did not appear on the gun he reportedly had, according to the St. Louis American. “If he had been carrying the gun, it would have his DNA,” Atty. Wooten said.
The Myers family, also, had an independent autopsy done. It showed that their only son was shot six times in the back of the legs and once in the side of the head, probably the fatal wound, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, who performed the autopsy.
“His femur bone was shattered and the pain would have been too great. He would have fallen down,” said Dr. Wecht. Four rounds struck Myers, Jr., entering on an upward trajectory, consistent with him running up a hill in the front yard of a house, he continued.
“As he was running, he was being shot,” Dr. Wecht said.
Another shot entered the side of his left thigh, and would have left him immobile while the fatal wound to the side of his head did not have an upward trajectory, he added.
Abdul Akbar Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, spoke at the funeral of Vonderrit Myers Jr. “Now that the independent autopsy has been done, we know he was shot from behind and the police Chief Dotson lied and is clearly showing that culture of cover up to protect their own,” he said.
“The media is painting the worst image of both Brown and Vonderrit, so that the general public won’t have any sympathy for young Black men. St. Louis has become the epicenter for the struggle of police brutality and our youth. This is the eightieth day since the Brown killing and this is not going away anytime soon,” said Mr. Muhammad.