When Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer two years ago, Darren Seals was one of the most vocal activists leading protests across the city. He rallied a boycott of Democratic candidates in local elections after he said they failed to protect black lives. And on the day a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, Seals held Brown's mother in his arms as she sobbed.
On Tuesday, Seals was found dead, authorities said, in a burning car outside the city. He was 29.
Officers with the St. Louis County Police Department responded to a vehicle fire in the northern part of the county at about 1:50 a.m., reported The St. Louis American. When they arrived, authorities found Seals body inside the charred car. He had been shot, police told the newspaper.
Authorities are investigating the incident as a homicide, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but did not release any suspect information or a possible motive.
Online, friends and fellow activists mourned.
"We can live in a world where people don't die by violence. Nobody deserves to die," DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "We did not always agree, but he should be alive today."
Johnetta "Netta" Elzie, another leader of the Ferguson protests who grew up in North County St. Louis, wrote a series of tweets expressing her grief and shock:
"Today is really hard. This is really really hard."
"I hope his soul is at rest. I truly don't know what else to say."
"Peace to Ferguson protesters."
"This is so hard. We've never done this part before together."
In his own Twitter bio, Seals described himself as a "Businessman, Revolutionary, Activist, Unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa, Fighter, Leader."
He was best known for his local activism. A Washington Post story from 2014 featuring Seals described him as an "assembly-line worker and hip-hop musician."
In that story, Seals described his attempt to organize Democrats to unseat liberal officials by voting for white Republicans in the local elections that fall.
"Just because they've got the D next to their name, that don't mean nothing," Seals told The Post. "The world is watching us right now. It's time to send a message of our power."
At the time, Seals lived just blocks from where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Four months later, after the prosecutor announced Wilson would not face charges in Brown's death, Seals described to MTV what it was like to comfort the man's grieving mother.
"And for Mike Brown's mother to be right there in my arms crying — she literally cried in my arms — it was like I felt her soul crying," he said. "It's a different type of crying. I've seen people crying, but she was really hurt. And it hurt me. It hurt all of us."
Most recently, Seals had actively voiced his support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had made headlines in recent weeks for sitting and kneeling during the national anthem at NFL football games to raise awareness of racial inequality in the United States.