Another Black Teen Shot Dead In Missouri Sets Off Protests
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Just when a police shooting in suburban St. Louis was fading from the news, St. Louis faces another. On Wednesday, an off-duty police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old, black teenager.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Last night, protesters marched in the streets, demonstrations that now overlap with continuing protests about the shooting over the summer in Ferguson. St. Louis Public Radio's Emanuele Berry reports.
EMANUELE BERRY, BYLINE: Last night, dozens of people gathered at a scene that nobody ever again wanted to see - a vigil marking the shooting death of a black teen by a white officer.
JACKIE WILLIAMS: They washed his blood away, but they can't wash away what happened yesterday. And we're hurt, and we lost our child.
BERRY: That's Jackie Williams. His nephew, Vonderitt Myers Jr., is the teenager who was shot and killed by a white St. Louis metropolitan police officer Wednesday night in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis, 16 miles from Ferguson. Those gathered to protest the shooting that night shouted at police, saying, who do you serve?
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the off-duty officer was patrolling the Shaw neighborhood while working for a local security company. As he drove through the area, he spotted Myers and two other black males. Dotson said when the group fled, the officer pursued Myers, suspecting he was carrying a handgun. Brittany Ferrell lives a mile from where the shooting occurred. She doesn't think Myers was carrying a gun.
BRITTANY FERRELL: One of the first things that I heard was 16 shots - you know, unarmed. They said he had a sandwich in his hand.
BERRY: Sandwich or gun - there's a big difference, one that St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson tried to clear up at press conference early Thursday morning, saying that Myers indeed had a gun, and he fired at the officer.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
SAM DOTSON: The suspect comes out of a grey, hooded sweatshirt, and during the struggle comes off on top of him, runs up a hill towards - turns towards the officer, fires at least three shots towards the officer, at which point the officer defends himself and returns fire.
BERRY: Missouri court records show that Vonderitt Myers had a trial scheduled for charges of resisting arrest in a prior incident and unlawful use of a weapon. While some may be quick to compare this event to the shooting death of Michael Brown, St. Louis resident Susan O'Shaughnessy urges caution in making that comparison.
SUSAN O'SHAUGHNESSY: The officer didn't shoot until he was shot at several times. And I think at that point, we're looking at a self-defense situation. And so it does feel like it's a different situation.
BERRY: According to police, the officer fired 17 shots. While they haven't yet revealed his name, police say the officer is 32 years old and has been on the force for six years. He's currently on administrative leave. For activist Alexis Templeton, this latest shooting death motivates her to continue protests against the police, even two months after Michael Brown's death.
ALEXIS TEMPLETON: We are here until it's over. Stop killing us. We will be in your face telling you to stop killing us until you stop killing us.
BERRY: That's something Templeton and other activists will stress this weekend as part of what they call Ferguson October. Organizers hope to attract thousands of people from around the country to attend a rally in downtown St. Louis, a candlelight vigil in Ferguson and discussions on race, class and gender at venues throughout the city. While this weekend may rejuvenate protesters, some Ferguson residents appear weary. Earlier this week, one who self-identified as a person of color wrote an open letter to protesters pleading (reading) do not tear up what we have worked so hard to build up in our diverse community. We are not racist. For NPR News, I'm Emanuele Berry in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.