Unarmed black teenager shot: Is #MikeBrown the next Trayvon Martin?

In Ferguson, Mo., and on social media, a growing protest over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager. This shooting raises anew questions about excessive police force when confronting black suspects.

(AP Photo/Sid Hastings)
Protestors confront police during an impromptu rally, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by police in Ferguson, Mo. on Saturday.

An unarmed black teenager fatally shot in a struggle.

The emerging details of the death Saturday of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., bear a striking resemblance to the 2012 Trayvon Martin case in Florida. 

In the Martin case, an unarmed 17-year-old was fatally shot during a struggle with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member, who was armed.  The case became a catalyst for a national discussion on race relations in the United States, with teens donning "hoodies" in protests and President Obama declaring, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

Similarly, the community – and national – response to Mike Brown's death is already building.

"With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers ... this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization," said John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP and national NAACP board, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Gaskin called for the FBI to participate in the investigation of the case "to protect the integrity of the investigation."

In addition to echoes of the Martin case, some see a similar use of excessive force by police in this case, as when a black man died last month when New York City police placed him a chokehold.

The details of 18-year-old Brown's death are still somewhat sketchy. In a short press conference Sunday morning, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that at about noon on Saturday a Ferguson police officer had an encounter with two "individuals."  The police officer was pushed back inside his car and "assaulted" by Brown, he said.

During a struggle in the car, one shot was fired from the officer's gun. Then as Brown fled, the officer fired multiple times at Brown, fatally wounding him.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Piaget Crenshaw, 19, said she saw the officer try to put Brown in a patrol car and shoot Brown several times as he ran away, with his arms in the air. She complied with a police request to turn over photos she took at the scene.

How many shots were fired? Chief Belmar said "more than just a couple but I don't think it was many more than that," reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said that all the shell casings found at the scene matched the officer's gun.

Belmar did not give the name of the second person involved in the incident, nor the name of the police officer, who was identified as a six-year veteran of the force and who has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Shortly after Brown's death, the Ferguson police chief called in the St. Louis County Police to take charge of the investigation.

Community protests erupted Saturday within minutes of the shooting and have continued into Sunday.

Dozens of police from area communities were called to the scene Saturday as an angry crowd gathered shouting obscenities at the police and chanting, “We Are Michael Brown." A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night and another was reportedly planned for Sunday night.

On Sunday, it was reported that at least 200 people gathered outside the Ferguson, Mo., police station, carrying handmade signs that read "Stop killing our kids" and "Stop Renegade Police."

Brown, a 2014 Normandy High School graduate, was scheduled to begin classes at Vatterott College on Monday.

Anger over the shooting – and calls for justice – were also vented on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtags #MikeBrown and #Ferguson.


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