April V. Taylor
Tensions in St. Louis have reached a fever pitch as another black teenager was killed Wednesday night by a white police officer with eye witness accounts varying from the police narrative. The shooting happened nearly two months to the day of black unarmed teenager Michael Brown being killed in the nearby St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. A crowd quickly gathered near the scene and protesters chanted into the early morning hours.
Police are alleging that 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. fired at the officer who then returned fired, killing Myers. However, relatives are reporting that Myers was not armed and was holding a sandwich he had just purchased. Residents and community members are also questioning why an off-duty cop stopped Myers to even lead to an alleged exchange of gunfire. The officer is reported to have approached Myers and his friends while they were walking. When one of the three boys started to run, the officer made a U-turn in his Hi-Tech security vehicle and began chasing them. According to CNN, one of the boys was holding his pants, “in a way that suggested he had a gun.”
The off duty officer then advised the teenagers that they were under arrest after which an altercation ensued between Myers and the officer. During the altercation, Myer’s sweatshirt came off and a gun was allegedly visible in his waistband according to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson. According to police, Myers then fired three shots after which the officer returned 17 shots, killing Myers. The officer was not injured.
Family member Teyonna Myers gave a different account to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. She stated, “He had a sandwich in his hand and they thought it was a gun It’s like Michael Brown all over again.” Myers uncle summed up the family’s pain stating, “All I know is he came out the store with a sandwich. Next thing, he’s shot several times by a cop who was chasing someone else.” Witnesses also report that Myers was tased and then shot. Eyewitness Lavell Boyd states, “When I pulled up I saw the cop standing over him then he pointed the gun at everyone else telling everyone to get back while he was searching for another clip.”
Social media lit up similar to the way it did when Brown was killed, with the hashtag #ShawShooting trending worldwide on Twitter within hours of the shooting. Alderman Antonio French, who has spoken out about Brown’s killing, made the following statement about the most recent shooting death, “At the scene of yet another young man’s death. This happens too often in our city. It’s a crisis that we should all be concerned about. The victim’s mother was here. She fainted. An ambulance came to attend to her. There is nothing like a mother’s pain at the loss of a child.”
As protesters gathered, a fire truck arrived to wash Myers blood from the grass where he was killed. As eyewitness accounts and the police version of events vary so drastically yet again, one can not help but to think about other cases of police killing someone who turned out to not be armed despite police initially claiming that they were. Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by the NYPD who claimed that saw his gun and heard it go off; he was unarmed. Police also claimed that they saw and heard Kendrec McDade shoot at them before they killed him; he was unarmed. These are just two notable cases where the police account of what happened to justify someone being shot and killed turned out to be completely false. Hopefully time will reveal what really happened last night in St. Louis that led to yet another black teenager dying at the hands of a white police officer.