An 18-year-old man, tentatively identified as Tyrone Harris Jr., remains in “critical, unstable” condition after being shot by police during a demonstration in Ferguson, Missouri last night. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Harris wasn’t a demonstrator but a “criminal” who fired on officers first. Harris is black. He was shot by four detectives, whose race Belmar has declined to disclose.
The shooting came during demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death. The detectives were reportedly in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car. Harris is accused by police of firing at them as he walked away from a gunfight that happened between about six people. The St. Louis Post Dispatch identified Harris and said he was a graduate of the same high school Brown attended. His father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told the newspaper Brown and his son were “real close,” and expressed skepticism that he’d randomly shot at police: “We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said.”
Chief Belmar alleged that Harris was involved in a gunfight and that they’d recovered a stolen gun from the scene:
Belmar said two groups of people exchanged gunfire on the west side of West Florissant Avenue at the same time the shooting took place. Shots were heard for 40-50 seconds, Belmar said. “It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” he said.
The people doing the shooting “were criminals,” Belmar said. “They were not protesters.”
Investigators recovered a 9 mm Sig Sauer that had been stolen in Cape Girardeau, Belmar said.
Observers on Twitter claimed that police kept Harris lying on the ground for an unspecified amount of time without medical aide before eventually taking him to the hospital, where he went into surgery. All four detectives who shot him were placed on administrative leave, which is customary. Belmar said none of them were wearing body cameras.
In an updated statement sent at 5 a.m., they said Harris shot at the detectives twice as they pursued him, and claimed to have called an ambulance for him “immediately:”
Around the same time, as the statement says, St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel was beaten and robbed covering the protests; the paper says he “was not seriously injured.” Police also deployed tear gas on protesters:
Johnetta Elzie, one of the activists who began the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson last year, responded to the shooting:
Harris lies on the ground with two police officers standing over him. Photo via AP Images