They were killed by police officers in Wisconsin, New York and California. Some were shot on the street. One was killed in a Walmart. Another died after being placed in a chokehold. The Associated Press reports that the outrage after the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of the unarmed, black Michael Brown, 18, by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the nation. Demonstrations fueled by a sense of injustice and buoyed by social media have occurred in several cities, regardless of whether the shootings took place last week or last month. The spark, said Garrett Duncan of Washington University in St. Louis, was how Ferguson police handled the aftermath of Brown's killing, leading to rioting and looting in the face of a heavily armed police force and, later, the National Guard.
“When you leave an 18-year-old boy's body in the street for four hours in a Missouri summer, that's going to trigger something,” Duncan said. “The reason it's politicized is we still don't know what's going on. The boy is buried and we still don't know the circumstances.” In a culture where the 24/7 news cycle dissects events and can fill the information void with opinion, the topic of police shootings has become polarizing. In Los Angeles, with a long history of racial tension between police and black residents, the police department has taken a more proactive approach, releasing information and holding public forums. “They've gone on a charm tour with the community,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. Still, he said, the same tension that boiled over in Ferguson lies just beneath the surface in Los Angeles.