Michael Brown

Michael Brown
Michael Brown
Photo by Unknown / Wikipedia Fair Use WP:NFCC#4

Michael Brown was an 18-year-old high school graduate and amateur rapper and musician in St. Louis County, Missouri, who went by the stage name of “Big Mike.” On the morning of August 9, 2014, Michael and friend Dorian Johnson were confronted by a Ferguson police officer after a report of a theft at a nearby convenience store. After an initial struggle between the police officer and Michael, during which the officer fired his gun twice, Michael and Dorian attempted to flee. The police officer shot Michael six times, killing him. Less than 90 seconds passed from the time the white police officer encountered Michael to the time of his death.

Dorian said the officer shot Michael, who was unarmed, multiple times until he fell to the ground. The officer fired a total of twelve bullets, including twice during the struggle at his car. The last shot was probably the kill shot. Michael was struck six times, all in the front of his body. Dorian claimed that the police officer initiated a confrontation by grabbing Michael by the neck through his car window, threatening him and then shooting at him. Conflicting witness statements reported that Michael had his hands in the air, in the universal sign of surrender.

The Black community was outraged after authorities left Michael’s corpse lying in the middle of the street, in front of children and the elderly as well as people who are already afflicted by racial trauma. The first interaction between Michael and the officer occurred at Noon. Michael’s body was not cleared to be taken to the morgue until 4 p.m.

Disputing any discrepancies in the suggested evidence to the contrary, protesters adopted a popular gesture and a powerful slogan: "Hands up, don't shoot!"

Protests, both peaceful and violent, continued for more than a week in Ferguson. Police later established a nightly curfew. The media and politicians strongly criticized the response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests. Concerns were raised over insensitivity, tactics, and a militarized response.

This was the first time many Americans witnessed tear gas and other weaponry deployed against American citizens. And for many, watching the Ferguson protests on the news was their first introduction to the police’s use of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, such as armored tanks, and other military gear, originally purchased under President Clinton’s controversial Pentagon military surplus program in 1997.

Despite investigations by the St. Louis County District Attorney and the United States Department of Justice, the officer was never indicted for a crime. Michael Brown’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, resulting in a $1.5 million dollar settlement in 2017. On July 30, 2020, the St. Louis County Prosecutor announced that his office had undertaken an additional five-month review of the case but would not be charging the officer involved.