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Another police shooting leads to tension in the St. Louis area

Another police shooting leads to tension in the St. Louis area

The “Ferguson movement” never really dissipated, although national media inevitably turned their eyes to other stories.  There have been protests and marches all along.  Tensions began to rise back to a boil after another police shooting in St. Louis last week, involving another 18-year-old black man shot by a white police officer.  In this case, the officer was off-duty but in uniform while working at a security job.  Many other features of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson are present, notably including a widespread refusal by protesters to believe what the authorities are saying about the case, and reflexive anger as more details about the young man who was shot emerge.

We got past the “baby-faced innocent gunned down for absolutely no reason” stage fairly quickly.  Here’s how NBC News described the case within two days of the shooting:

The St. Louis teenager fatally shot by an off-duty officer Wednesday night was a high school student facing trial for a weapons charge, his lawyer told NBC News. Vonderrit D. Myers, 18, had been released on a $10,000 bond following a June 27 incident involving an unlawful use and possession of a gun and resisting arrest after fleeing the scene. Myers pleaded not guilty on both charges and was given a Nov. 17 court date, records show.

Police and Myers’ lawyer said the teenager was with his cousins in the city’s Shaw neighborhood Wednesday night when they encountered the off-duty cop. The unnamed officer, who was working a side security job at the time, said the three young men began to run when he turned his vehicle around. He pursued them by foot. After a “physical altercation,” the suspected gunman shot at the officer at least three times, according to police. The officer, who was unharmed, fired back 17 times — although it’s not known how many times he hit the suspect. Myers was reportedly wearing an ankle bracelet — one of the conditions of his bail — when he died.

The rumor initially spreading among protesters, based on statements from Myers’ family, said he was holding nothing more dangerous than a sandwich when the off-duty cop randomly shot him.  It was then discovered that not only was he armed, but he was very fond of his guns, as reported by Fox News in St. Louis:

FOX 2 has learned the suspect, shot and killed last week by police, showed off his stolen gun to anyone who would look.  We obtained pictures of Vonderrit Myers Jr. showing off his handguns on social media.  Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes reveals the evidence while exploring why the officer shot at Myers 17 times.

Vonderrit Myers Jr. reportedly posted a picture on social media before someone dismantled the page.  You can see three handguns in his lap, including a 9 millimeter Smith and Wesson semi-automatic.

Brian Millikan, the attorney for the officer who shot Myers said, ‘The one weapon with the silver slide on it has been positively identified by my client as the gun that was used in the shooting that night.’

The suspect’s family claimed publicly that Myers did not have a gun.

Millikan said, ‘We want people to know, not only did he have it but this is the actual weapon that he used that night.’

One of the social media accounts displaying photos of Myers and his guns was hastily deleted following comments like, “if it’s justice you really want, this doesn’t help us get it!”  That tells you a lot about what they have in mind when they say “justice.”

As for the explanation about why the off-duty officer fired 17 times:

The SLMPD incident report states Myers ignored the officers ‘verbal commands’ and ‘moved towards the officer’ aggressively. The report says it became ‘hands on’ and Myers ‘hooded sweatshirt came off.’

Millikan then explained, ‘The suspect, where he began shooting at the police officer, was on higher ground, basically, than the policeman.  So he has a tactical advantage because he`s shooting down at the policeman.’

Millikan said the officer was at the bottom of a hill and forced to get down.  Millikan explained why his client fired 17 shots.  He said, ‘Part of those rounds were suppression rounds to try to get the suspect to stop shooting at him.  So the way it was described to me is the police man`s got his gun up here, he`s down trying to avoid fire coming at him and his gun is raised slightly above his head, shooting up at back up at the suspect.’

Millikan says police also found what they believe to be a bullet fragment in a car behind the officer.

The pistol described by the police officer was recovered from the crime scene, and was listed as a stolen gun.  At the time of the Fox report on Monday, gunpowder tests on Myers’ hands and clothing had not come back yet.  The results are now in, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Gunshot residue tests and ballistics evidence indicate that Vonderrit D. Myers Jr. fired a gun at a police officer before being fatally shot, police and union officials said Tuesday.

The police department issued a statement saying that forensic scientists from the Missouri Highway Patrol crime lab found gunshot residue on Myers’ hands, shirt and inside the waistband and pockets of his jeans. Police said that although gunshot residue can be present on anyone near a shooting, the results show levels consistent with Myers being the shooter, because the police officer was standing too far away.

The residue also was found on Myers’ right hand only, police said.

Ballistics evidence also revealed three bullets that hit the ground where the officer was trying to take cover matched Myers’ gun. A round that pierced a car behind the officer was too badly damaged to be able to match it to Myers’ gun; however, it did not match the type of bullets the officer fired, police said.

None of this is sitting well with the protesters, who tend to disbelieve the evidence, accept statements from the Myers family as gospel, link the incident to Ferguson as part of an imagined shooting spree by white cops against black “teenagers,” and grow very angry when details of Myers’ previous actions and legal history are introduced.  As with the Brown shooting in Ferguson, such details are met with angry accusations that those who present them think Myers deserved to die because he posed for some photos holding pistols.  As with the Brown shooting, what Myers was actually doing at the moment of his death is dismissed as less than irrelevant – it’s supposedly racism to merely broach the subject.  BizPac Review collected a few of the skeptical reactions:

In an interview with CNN Tuesday, Pastor Willie Kilpatrick, representing the Myers family, called the police version “absolutely untrue.”

“It’s very difficult for us to accept the ending of the story when the beginning and the middle of the story are very inconsistent and factually not true — what the police have said about their son.”

In a Twitter posting, Jamila Lemieux, digital editor for the iconic black magazine Ebony, dismissed the results out of hand: “I have no reason to believe the St. Louis Police Department’s report on #VonderritMyers. None.”

The St. Louis Police Officer’s Association called a press conference to let it be known they’ve had enough of this, as mentioned by the Post-Dispatch:

The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association called a press conference Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the department released the gunshot residue findings.

Jeff Roorda, business manager for the association, said that police shooting cases are being tried “in the court of public opinion” and “we think there ought to be evidence presented” in that court.

“We’re done, as a police union, standing in the shadows in these cases,” Roorda said. Along with the gunshot residue results, Roorda and association president Joe Steiger mentioned photos circulating on social media showing Myers with guns and a prior arrest in St. Louis County in a shooting case.

Roorda and the lawyer for the officer who shot Myers gave some details about that earlier shooting case, which appears to be in addition to the weapons charge he was still dealing with:

Roorda and Millikan also said that when Myers was 16, he was criminally charged and certified as an adult after police say he shot a 15-year-old in the leg. Court records show, however, that a judge dismissed the case after the victim failed to show up for a preliminary hearing.

St. Louis County police declined to provide the arrest or incident report. Christmas said he was unaware of the case, as did Peter Cohen, Myers’ lawyer for a gun case that was pending at the time of his death.

The investigation into Myers’ death continues. Investigators still are awaiting DNA and toxicology results.

Roorda also complained that in Ferguson, “protesters demanded immediate answers and demanded officers not shoot unarmed suspects… everything they asked for in Ferugson they got in Shaw, and it still wasn’t enough.”   Commensurately, the Shaw neighborhood where Myers’ shooting took place has been given the works, as “protesters threw rocks through windows of some homes and at least one business, vandalized three police vehicles and burned flags stolen from residents’ porches” on the first night of unrest.”  Gateway Pundit has been tracking a number of sizable protests, including a rally where a masked New Black Panther described the shooting of Myers as a “declaration of war” and threatened to murder police officers in retaliation, and the “storming” of an upscale shopping mall by Ferguson demonstrators, who proceeded to harass shoppers.

As the Myers shooting slides smoothly into an ideological continuum with the Brown shooting, the details of both cases grow less important in the minds of protesters.  It certainly isn’t “about” what either Myers or Brown did any more; to the extent facts are relevant at all, only the actions of the police officers matter.  That’s not how the law works, so there’s a good chance the upcoming decision of the grand jury about indicting Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, will not make the Ferguson Movement happy at all.  They’ve already made it clear they will settle for nothing less than an indictment, while the ostensibly slow progress and lack of transparency by the grand jury are among the things they were protesting last weekend.  Something tells me an indictment followed by acquittal wouldn’t satisfy them, either.

When the Ferguson story broke, I thought about the minimal level of goodwill required to make a society function.  “Goodwill” doesn’t necessarily mean unity, cheerful fellowship, or even agreement; it’s the level of basic trust obviously missing when people snarl that they have no patience for the legal system, dismiss evidence out of hand, and declare that “justice” can only be done if the system delivers the verdict they’ve already reached in their heads.  Even more than in the case of Michael Brown, the people turning Vonderrit Myers, Jr. into a social cause are doggedly ignoring the facts, or even accusing those facts of being somehow conspiratorial against the cause of cosmic justice, which they say the police and courts cannot possibly render… even though the case is only a week old.

Some people ask why these protesters keep voting, decade after decade, for the same people who created the system they now consider wholly invalid.  That’s easy: because it’s hard work to question your long-standing political loyalties, turn your back on organizers, and challenge your ideology.  Street theater is loads easier, and more fun.  The explosive release of anger is exhilarating.  Professional organizers are very good at directing it.  Raw passion cannot be thwarted by rational challenge; such challenges only strengthen it, since anyone who asks picky questions is clearly not sufficiently devoted to the cause.  The tides of narrative roll on, lifting Causes and alleged Higher Truths into the gathering storm clouds above an angry sea, while the details of what actually occurred on the dates memorialized by activists vanish over the horizon.


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