St. Louis city police stand down after a previous Ferguson-related protest in September. Tom Gannam/AP

An officer fired 17 shots at Vonderrit Myers Jr., and protests carried into the early hours of this morning.

New tensions erupted in St. Louis on Wednesday evening after an off-duty police officer shot and killed Vonderrit Myers Jr., an 18-year-old African American man. The officer, who has not been named, was working at his second job as a security guard but was still wearing his police uniform when the incident occurred.

Teyonna Myers, the victim's cousin, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "He was unarmed. He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again."

St. Louis Police offered a different series of events. Chief Sam Dotson told the Associated Press the officer was spotted by three men while patrolling his designated security guard area in his car, and after one of the men ran away, the officer made a U-turn. This prompted all three to run away, with the officer tailing them in his car. The chase escalated as the officer got out of his vehicle and pursued one man on foot. Chief Dotson noted that because the teen was grabbing his waistband as he ran, the officer believed he was carrying a weapon.

Alfred Adkins, the assistant police chief, told the Post the officer ended up in an struggle with the teen after the teen jumped out of the bushes during the chase. The police department claims the teen first fired three rounds at the officer, who returned fire, killing the teen. The officer fired 17 shots. He was not injured in the altercation and police say a weapon was recovered from the scene.

"An investigation will decide if the officer's behavior was appropriate," said Chief Dotson, who did not offer an explanation for the seemingly excessive 17 shots. Police officers are generally trained to shoot to kill in situations where they feel their lives are threatened. As Jens David Ohlin, a professor of law at Cornell Law School, explained to me, there are two kinds of defensive force: "non-lethal measures and lethal measures. Once it is appropriate for the police officer to fire their weapon, you are in the territory of lethal measures and it is justified to kill the individual."

Many local residents drew parallels to the police shooting of Michael Brown, which took place in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, and the shooting of Kajieme Powell just a few days later. Protests of Myers' death carried deep into the night and Thursday morning. The protests were predominantly peaceful, as no arrests were made or businesses looted, though some police car windows were broken in. (Dotson noted that police "showed great restraint" throughout the night.)

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  2. Amazon HQ2

    Without Amazon HQ2, What Happens to Housing in Queens?

    The arrival of the tech company’s new headquarters was set to shake up the borough’s real estate market, driving up rents and spurring displacement. Now what?

  3. Transportation

    With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

    Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

  4. A photo of a visitor posing for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville
    Perspective

    Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

    From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?

  5. Life

    The Town Where Retirees Can’t Retire

    In fast-aging pockets of rural America, older residents are going back to work. But not always because they need the money.