St. Louis shooting reignites anger among activists
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Two months after a Ferguson officer killed Michael Brown, setting off intense national debate about law enforcement treatment of minorities, the shooting death of another black 18-year-old by police in nearby St. Louis has reignited anger among activists already planning weekend protests.
Police say Vonderrit D. Myers was shot Wednesday after he opened fire on a white, off-duty officer, but Myers’ parents say he was unarmed. Some activists and lawmakers say Myers was targeted because he was black and are asking the Justice Department — which has opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Brown, who was unarmed — to investigate his shooting.
“This here was racial profiling turned deadly,” said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed.
The shooting — the third fatal shooting of a black male by St. Louis area police since Brown’s death — happened as activists and other protesters prepared for four days of rallies and marches over the Brown shooting. Organizers say the events, which start Friday and include a march Saturday in St. Louis, have taken on added urgency.
Brown’s Aug. 9 death spurred weeks of unrest in Ferguson and the St. Louis region. A state grand jury is deciding whether the officer who shot him, Darren Wilson, will face charges.
Police say Myers was both armed and aggressive, using a stolen 9mm gun to shoot at the officer.
Syreeta Myers told The Associated Press by phone Thursday that her son was holding a sandwich, not a gun.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the officer spotted Myers and two other males around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday while working a security job and patrolling near the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Dotson said the officer, who was wearing his uniform despite being off-duty, became suspicious when one of them started to run.
When the officer made a U-turn, all three ran and the officer chased them in his car and then on foot, Dotson said.
During the chase, he got into a physical altercation with Myers, who ran up a hill, turned and fired at the officer, the chief said. The officer, who wasn’t hurt, shot back and fatally struck Myers.
Ballistic evidence shows Myers fired three shots before his gun jammed, Dotson said. Police said they recovered the 9mm gun, which had been reported stolen on Sept. 26.
The officer fired off 17 rounds but it’s not clear how many bullets hit Myers. Preliminary autopsy results show a shot to the head killed Myers, according to medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham.
The 32-year-old officer, who has been with the department for six years, and whose name was not released, is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
The Ferguson case was on protesters’ minds as they gathered after the latest shooting. Some shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a common refrain during weeks of sometimes violent protests after Brown’s death. Dotson said some in the St. Louis crowd shouted obscenities at officers and damaged three police cars, smashing windows and tail lights.
Police said one man was cited for being a felon in possession of a handgun after an officer spotted him putting on a ski mask inside a car, prompting a search.
Online court documents show Myers was free on bond when he was killed. He had been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor resisting arrest in June in St. Louis.
Associated Press writer Bill Draper in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.