What Is Tyrone Harris Charged With? The 18-Year-Old Who Was Shot By Police In Ferguson Is Facing Several Charges
In Ferguson, Missouri, on the first anniversary of Michael Brown's death, protests ran throughout the weekend into the late hours of Sunday evening, when police shot and critically wounded 18-year-old Tyrone Harris, Jr. after reportedly coming under gunfire. According to his father, Harris was a Normandy High School graduate and had been a close friend of Brown's. On Monday, Harris was criminally charged with four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, five counts of armed criminal action, and shooting from or at a motor vehicle. Bail was set at $250,000.
Court records indicate that during the demonstrations, Harris allegedly fired at least one shot into an officer's vehicle, after which the officer returned fire. Then, officers left their vehicle to chase Harris, who allegedly fired shots at them as he fled the scene. In the gun battle that ensued, officers critically wounded Harris, and reportedly recovered a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol next to his body. However, Tyrone Harris Sr., who identified as Harris' father, said that two girls who were with Harris before he was shot said that he did not have a gun.
Ferguson police said that initially, two groups of agitators had been shooting at each other when Harris darted across a parking lot and was confronted by four officers in an unmarked vehicle. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that, as of Monday, Harris remained hospitalized in critical condition, and estimated that more than 40 rounds had been fired during the incident.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Harris faces charges in St. Louis for the theft of both a firearm and a motor vehicle, as well as resisting arrest by fleeing, with a trial scheduled for Aug. 31 at St. Louis Circuit Court. The Post-Dispatch also reported that a complaint allegedly documented Harris admitting to an officer that he had stolen the car and the pistol.
Following the shooting, St. Louis County has declared a state of emergency in Ferguson. This, coupled with conflicting reports about what took place during Sunday night's demonstrations, are reminiscent of the protests following Michael Brown's death last August, and further protests after a grand jury's failure to indict Darren Wilson in November. At this time, it is important — even though Harris has been charged — to be cautious in how we talk about the shooting, and recognize the impact of language. From Harris' father's perspective, "My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot. It's all a bunch of lies ... They're making my son look like a criminal."
Activists took to Twitter on Monday, describing the alleged tear-gassing of protesters by police after Harris was shot. The only official source for much of the information about the incident has come from the police officers involved, who were not wearing body cameras at the time. As a result, it is not completely possible to ascertain exactly what took place. Perhaps the officers were following standard protocol at the time of the shooting, but we should also take the time to listen to the accounts of #BlackLivesMatter activists and others who participated in Sunday evening's remembrances and protests.