As information continues to come out about the shooting of another black youth – 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. – by a white St. Louis police officer, the police and establishment continue their claim that the murder was justified because the officer was allegedly fired upon by Myers, while the African-American community continues its skepticism and rejection of the police version of events.
What brought us to this situation is the intersection of the mindset of Myers and the police at approximately 7:30 p.m. October 8. I imagine that at the time Myers was acutely aware of the shooting of Michael Brown.
With all the media attention the past two months about that shooting, Myers surely had imbedded in his subconscious the vivid imagery that has emerged of Michael Brown's death: unarmed, not committing any crime other than walking in the middle of the street, being almost a half a block away from a cop after being shot and shot at, and then turning around to face the cop with hands up, only to be shot six times, including twice in the head. I imagine that frightening image would put some apprehension and doubt in a teen's mind about whether he ca trust that a white cop will deal with him fairly.
I also imagine that young Myers saw – as the whole world did – the video of Kajieme Powell being gunned down from a distance by two white St. Louis police officers, while not committing any crime other than demonstrating that he was obviously mentally ill, and while not having a firearm or any object that visibly posed an immediate threat to the officers.
I would imagine that a teen seeing this video run repeatedly on social media might develop a mindset that has a fear and loathing of white police, because the youthful mind sees gun toting cops taking black life with little hesitation and with impunity.
Myers probably, like most of us, also saw the nationally televised video of the black man repeatedly shot by a white cop simply because he was reaching into his vehicle to get the identification papers the officer asked him to produce.
And Myers may have had a chance to see before he was gunned down the recent national news story and video of white cops smashing out the window of a vehicle in order to drag an unarmed black man from the car. I imagine a youth seeing all this could have his psyche impacted in a manner that would cause him to feel that if he was confronted by a white cop, then his life might be in jeopardy.
Probably all of this was a part of Myers’ thinking around 7:30 p.m., when a white off-duty cop in uniform rolled up on him and his black friends. Perhaps Myers thought that it didn't or wouldn't matter to the cop that they were not engaged in any criminal activity or doing anything wrong, just hanging out like youth is prone to do. Perhaps Myers thought that because he was not doing anything wrong, was not wanted for any crime, and was not being placed under arrest, that he had the right and freedom to either walk away – or run away – from the scene.
Perhaps he wondered why he was being chased by a white cop when he had done nothing wrong and had not been ordered by the cop to do anything. Perhaps as he was running, Myers thought about how Trayvon Martin was chased down by a security guard like the off-duty cop now chasing him.
Although we will never know, perhaps what was running through Myers' mind as he was being chased that night was that he did not want to be another Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown, or Kajieme Powell.
Vickers is chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) and a veteran protest organizer.