ST. LOUIS — Two months after a Ferguson officer killed Michael Brown, setting off intense national debate about law enforcement treatment of minorities, the shooting death of another black 18-year-old by police in nearby St. Louis has reignited anger among activists already planning weekend protests.
Police say Vonderrit D. Myers was shot Wednesday after he opened fire on a white, off-duty officer with a stolen 9mm gun, but Myers' parents say he was unarmed. Some activists and lawmakers say Myers was targeted because he was black and are asking the Justice Department — which has opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Brown, who was unarmed — to investigate his shooting.
"This here was racial profiling turned deadly," said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat.
The 32-year-old officer, a six-year veteran of the department whose name was not released, is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
The shooting happened as activists and other protesters from across the country prepared for four days of rallies, marches and protests over the Brown shooting. Organizers say the events, which start today and include a march Saturday in downtown St. Louis, have taken on added urgency.
"This is a racial powder keg," said Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis lawyer who was among more than 20 black leaders who joined Nasheed at a news conference Thursday outside police headquarters. "All this is going to do is escalate the situation."
About 200 people gathered late Thursday for a quiet candlelight remembrance at the site where Myers was shot. At one point a police helicopter circled overhead, but otherwise there was no visible law enforcement presence.