I'm afraid St. Louis is going to be awash in more protests, but it's far too early to understand exactly what happened here.
What the police and witnesses agree on is that an 18-20 year old black kid was shot by police. That's about where the agreement begins and ends.
This is the statement from St. Louis PD sent to Buzzfeed reporter Jim Dalrymple:
An officer working department-approved secondary for a security company, wearing a St. Louis Police Officer's uniform was in the 4100 block of Shaw when he attempted a pedestrian check. The male suspect fled on foot. The officer pursued the suspect. The suspect turned and fired a gun at the officer. Fearing for his safety, the officer returned fire striking the suspect, fatally wounding him. The officer was not injured. A gun was recovered from the scene. The officer is a 32-year old white male. He has been on the force for 6 years. The suspect is a black male believed to be 18-20 years old. As is department policy, the officer has been placed on administrative leave. The investigation is ongoing.
If you are wondering about what a pedestrian check is, it's officer-initiated engagement with someone to verify that they live in that neighborhood. Because evidently it's suspicious to be in a neighborhood you don't live in?
The police statement given to Dalrymple differs drastically from eyewitnesses on the scene. Josh Marshall at TPM got some statements within 15 minutes of the shooting from people in the area.
This is what I was told not by an eyewitness but by someone who'd spoken to eyewitnesses and family members within about 15 minutes of the shooting. So it's a pastiche of various accounts.
He was leaving the corner store with a sandwich, a pickle and some other food. When he came outside, the sec officer had already been chasing after some other kids, he stopped chasing those kids and told him to stop, too. Instead he ran across the street into the gangway. The sec officer chased him, tased him. Shot him 16 times. The people standing outside as the cops were investigating were saying "they're gonna plant a gun on him.
I want to stress: everything here should be taken as tentative and subject to change as more becomes known. But we do appear to have the kernel of two very different accounts of what transpired.
And then there's this report from Fox2Now:
Homicide detectives from the St. Louis police department have been called to the scene of a fatal officer involved shooting in the 4100 block of Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis.
The shooting occurred around 7:30 pm.
Police say an off-duty officer working a second job attempted pedestrian check. The suspect fled on foot, and officer pursed the suspect. The suspect turned and fired at the officer. The officer fearing for his life returned fire fatally wounding the suspect.
A crowd has gathered at the corner store at Klemm next to the Shaw Market. Some in the crowd say the suspect in his 20’s, was shot 16 times. They also say the suspect was only armed with a sandwich.
Again, there's a vast difference between the police accounts and eyewitness accounts, and no way to figure out what's true and what's not at this point. But it is certainly creating tension. Protesters are already there.
The young man who was shot is Vonderrit Myers, Jr..
Also, this account of a "pedestrian check" in 2013:
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office has charged 30-year-old Lamont Dukes with resisting arrest after the man allegedly fled from a cop during a "pedestrian check" over the weekend. Our original coverage of the incident is below.
A police officer who thought the suspect might have a gun on him shot and wounded Dukes on Sunday, officials say, sending him to the hospital with wounds in his buttocks and leg.
Dukes, it turns out, was unarmed.
But the officer discharged his firearm "fearing for his safety," police say.
The male cop, 33, is now on administrative leave as is standard procedure with an officer-involved shooting.
Dukes, a resident of the 4300 block of St. Louis Avenue, is meanwhile recovering in the hospital. A judge has issued a $500 cash-only bond.
Pretty low bar to cross to fire a gun at someone, I'd say.
Update 2: The St. Louis PD just held a press briefing where they clarified Mr. Myers' name. They also confirmed that 17 shots were fired by the cop and said that Myers was pursued by the cop because he was "running like he had a gun."
They also began the inevitable process of victim-shaming, by informing the press that Mr. Myers was no angel, and was known to law enforcement authorities. There is a police report from June of this year where Myers was arrested for allegedly resisting arrest and an improper use of a weapon.
Note that these appear to be charges, not convictions. He should be, therefore, presumed innocent.
Beyond that, they tossed a lot of confusion into the mix that is quite difficult to sort out. Until I can get it all straight, I'm going to wait to add it to this post.
Update 3: Here's an updated report from Buzzfeed on the press conference:
The incident that led to the shooting began about 7:30 p.m. CT when an off-duty officer noticed three men near the corner of Shaw Blvd. and Klemm St. in St. Louis. Police Chief Sam Dotson said during a news conference that the men began running when they saw the officer, who responded by chasing one of them.
The officer was working as a security guard at the time, but wearing his St. Louis police uniform, Dotson said.
The officer initially lost the man but found him again when he jumped out of a bush. Lt. Col. Alfred Adkins told the Associated Press a struggle then ensued.
“The officer approached, they got into a struggle, they ended up into a gangway, at which time the young man pulled a weapon and shots were fired,” Adkins said. “The officer returned fire and unfortunately the young man was killed.”
According to Dotson, the man fired at least three times. His gun then jammed, though he continued pulling the trigger. The officer fired 17 times. By early Thursday morning, investigators had recovered bullet casings from two guns, Dotson said, as well as a 9 mm Ruger believed to have belonged to the man.
“The ballistic evidence indicates at least three different rounds at the office,” Dotson added.
See why it's confusing? First the officer goes after three guys. One runs. Then hides in bushes and jumps out at officer, according to police. Then Dotson says "three different rounds."
Is that three different rounds from one gun, or three different rounds from three guns? And why would an off-duty moonlighting cop go after three guys without probable cause? Why would someone evading police jump out of the bushes at them?
Way too many questions without answers here.