Regional context of “Space for Grace” BSA event

Events in Ferguson, Mo over the summer that were remembered during BSA’s event “Space for Grace”. (Photo source: Light Brigading)

Interest in the events of the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, on Aug. 9 has reached communities beyond the boundaries of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO.  The protests that occurred during the following week and the resulting police response have received much attention from the media worldwide, although the details of the incident are, even today, still unclear.

Several eye-witness accounts and video recordings of the scene of the event, though not the shooting itself, have surfaced. Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown during the shooting, described the events as he experienced them in a live interview on CNN.  Johnson claimed that Officer Darren Wilson, whose name was released by the Ferguson Police Department six days after the shooting, told the two young men to “Get the F%&K on the sidewalk,” after which Wilson pulled up next to Brown and the two engaged in a physical altercation through the window of the police vehicle, the dynamics of which remain uncertain.  It was during this altercation that the first shot was fired.

According to a private autopsy released by Brown’s parents, he was shot six times in the front of his body; two of the bullets were fired into his head.  This is consistent with reports from some witnesses who said that Brown turned to face Wilson after he tried to flee, putting his hands in the air and saying “Ok, ok, ok!”  Witness Michael Brady described Brown as curling up into a ball with his arms folded as he stumbled a few feet forward, only to be shot three or four more times.

On the same day the officer’s name was released, the Ferguson Police Department also released a video of an armed robbery of a Quik Trip that Michael Brown was suspected to be involved in, although Police Chief Thomas Jackson admitted that Officer Wilson was unaware of Brown’s suspected connection to the robbery, in which a pack of Swisher Sweets was stolen.

The controversy surrounding the shooting and as the subsequent riots and looting were influenced by the popular opinion that racism was the motivation for the shooting.  Many considered the riot control tactics used by the Police Department to be over-militarized. The rioting resulted in dozens of civilian arrests.   Although are eye-witness accounts of the shooting, as well as some video recordings of reactions to the shooting, the parallel investigations being conducted by the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments, FBI, Department of Justice and a St. Louis County grand jury are faced with determining what happened on Canfield Drive when Officer Wilson fired six shots into the unarmed, eighteen year old Michael Brown.

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