We’re getting a late start this month because I have been doing research. I’ve struggled with what to write about – do I do Valentine’s or lover stories? Do I do something for Black History Month? – and in my endless internet browsing, my topic found me. Six young men tied to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri were found dead in the years following the violent protests. Some of their deaths were ruled suicides – and their families agreed. Others were ruled suicides, and their families vehemently disagreed. Others yet were murdered. One was ruled an accidental drowning. One was ruled an accidental overdose.
But when such a large number of people tied to such a contentious event die, people start to wonder – is there some larger conspiracy here? Or is this the result of a collective trauma from dealing with the protests and the greater generational trauma surrounding the issues that got everyone to that point?
Before we jump into each case individually, I want to examine the protests in general. This is necessary context for these deaths, especially once we consider the theories for each death.
On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown (18) and Dorian Johnson* (22), two young black men, were walking down Canfield Dr in Ferguson, MO. Officer Darren Wilson (28) told the two young men to use the sidewalk, which is a reasonable request. Allegedly, the two parties exchanged words, and the situation escalated. This is where the Officer’s actions are unreasonable. The officer got out of his car and scuffed with the 18-year-old brown. He then drew his sidearm, and shot the unarmed Michael Brown dead in the middle of the street. Force should not have entered this equation at all, let alone deadly force. (Note: Michael had stolen cigars earlier in the day, but this has been refuted as a reason for the stop and subsequent altercation.)
To make matters even worse, the police department then left Michael Brown’s body in the middle of the street for four hours. He was shot at about 12:02 PM and was not taken to the morgue until 4:37 PM – and while this is fairly typical in crime scenes, it is not a good move on a public street, where the whole neighborhood can see the body of this person they likely knew.
*Note: an earlier version of this post erroneously named listed Johnson’s first name as Darren.
The unrest began on August 10 in response to Michael Brown’s death. As with most, if not all demonstrations, the peaceful protests were accompanied by looting and violence near the site of the shooting. The unrest was renewed in November of 2014, when Officer Wilson was not indicted on any charges regarding the shooting of Michael Brown. In response to the political unrest, the United States Department of Justice determined that the Ferguson Police engaged in misconduct, most notably by racially profiling in a “pattern of unlawful conduct.” This is just scratching the surface of this injustice and the outcry produced, but we will explore more with each case in this series.