Who Are The Officers Who Shot Tyrone Harris After He Allegedly Shot At Them First? St. Louis County PD Has Released Little Info
Police reported that a tense chase on Sunday night, the one-year anniversary of the death of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown, ended in gunfire. According to authorities, four plainclothes detectives spotted 18-year-old Tyrone Harris running across a parking lot and began to follow him in their unmarked SUV, interior lights flashing, when Harris allegedly opened fire on them. Shots were apparently traded, and a critically-injured Harris was rushed to a nearby hospital, where, as of Monday, he remained in critical condition. So who were the four officers involved in the shooting, and why did they feel the need to chase Harris down in the first place?
On Monday, St. Louis Police Sergeant Brian Schellman told Bustle that the names of the four officers involved in the shooting would not be released, according to standard protocol: "We do not release names of officers unless they are charged with a crime, per department policy and Missouri state Sunshine Law."
Police on Monday claimed that officers had responded to reports of gunfire between two groups of "agitators," and that they had followed one of the young men involved, Harris, as he ran away from the scene. "The detectives [...] exited the vehicle at which time the suspect turned and began firing rounds at the detectives, who began firing at the suspect," said a police spokeswoman in a press release, indicating that Harris then turned down West Florissant Avenue and continued to flee. "The suspect once again stopped, turned, and reengaged the detectives, who returned fire, striking the suspect multiple times [and] detectives immediately called for an ambulance to respond to the scene," she explained.
Authorities reported that a "9 mm semi-automatic firearm, reported stolen out of Cape Girardeau, Missouri" allegedly belonging to the suspect, was also discovered at the scene.
St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar told reporters later that Harris and the rest of the alleged agitators had not been with the group of peaceful demonstrators gathered just blocks away: "They were criminals; they weren’t protesters. Protesters are the people out there talking about a way to effect change."
Demonstrators first began gathering on Sunday afternoon, following Michael Brown's father, Mike Brown Sr, in a silent, unified march of solidarity, organized to coincide with the anniversary of Brown's death one year earlier. Two white doves were released, and witnesses said there was very little police presence. By late Sunday evening, however, the atmosphere had changed.
Reports of an alleged break-in at a beauty supply store on West Florissant initially prompted police to respond, although it was later determined that no merchandise had been taken. A cash register that had been grabbed in the break-in was dropped later, after the suspected thieves supposedly became spooked by police presence. At that point, said witnesses, the crowd was told to disperse, only to be met with officers clad in riot gear, who then formed a skirmish line and blocked the demonstrators from leaving, The New York Times reported.
The evening culminated in the alleged offsite shootout between police and Harris, who was charged Monday afternoon on 10 separate counts, including "four counts of Assault on Law Enforcement in the First Degree, five counts of Armed Criminal Action, and one count of Discharging or Shooting a Firearm at a Motor vehicle," according to police paperwork.