Gunshots rang out in the midst of a press conference with interim Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson Sunday night as he was telling the media that police are trying their best to work with the community in respecting their rights, exactly one year after the shooting death of Michael Brown.
By the time the shooting had subsided, a long drawn-out volley of gunshots that sent reporters, officers and activists scurrying for cover, undercover St. Louis police had shot a man they say had shot at them first.
Another man, who was video recording the aftermath of the shooting from the other side of a fence, yelling at the cops to get the man some medical help, was handcuffed, but later released.
And the man shot by police, identified as Tyrone Harris, Jr., is still alive.
Details are still sketchy but police said the incident began when rival groups started shooting at each other on West Florissant Avenue, prompting undercover cops to start chasing Harris, Jr.
According to the New York Times:
Four plainclothes officers, who had watched the man run across a parking lot on the opposite side of the avenue, drove their unmarked sport utility vehicle, with its interior lights flashing, toward him, the authorities said. The man responded by shooting at the officers, Chief Belmar said. The police returned fire from inside their vehicle and then chased the man on foot, he said.
Each of the four officers shot at the man and dozens of gunshots were fired before the man was struck by a bullet, he said.
A gun that the police recovered from the shooting victim was a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer that was reported stolen last year, the authorities said. Chief Belmar said that the four detectives who had shot the man had from six to 12 years of experience, but declined to provide their names or other information.
The Ferguson Action Council, a coalition of local protest organizations, said on Monday that the police should not have sent plainclothes officers without body cameras to an area where protests were being held.
“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, said in a statement.
Hundreds of protesters had descended upon Ferguson over the weekend to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old man who was shot by a Ferguson police officer, leading to a grand jury decision to not indict the officer.
But the weekend was mired in violence with multiple shootings between locals who police say were not part of the protests as well as store break-ins and looting.
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Paul Hampel, who had been photographing and video recording people breaking into stores was attacked and robbed, leaving him with a concussion where he had to be transported to the hospital.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I got swarmed, beaten down really bad,” he said.
The attackers punched him in the face, hit him in the head at least three times and kicked him in the back of the head when he was on the ground, Hampel said.
The attackers took his phone and wallet and left. Hampel headed back to the police line and encountered New York Times photographer Whitney Curtis. He told her he needed an ambulance.
Someone laid him down on the grass and he doesn’t remember much after that.
He said he suffered a concussion and was kept overnight at a hospital for evaluation. He said he also suffered a puncture wound in his knee, perhaps from glass in the parking lot.
Hampel, who had been doing an excellent job immersing himself in the chaos, tweeting photos and videos to keep readers updated, posted his last photo around midnight, showing the 911 Hair Salon which had been broken into.
A sign on the window read, “we must stop killing each other.”