Editor’s Note: Video contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.
The onlookers yell out at police and talk passionately with each other, their anger mixed with disbelief. At one point, a siren breaks through the murmurs and the shouts.
In front of them is a young black man, his body prone and alone on the pavement.
It’s all in a video, captured Saturday and posted to Facebook a day later, that shows the tense, chilling scene on an otherwise placid summer day in Ferguson, Missouri.
It’s broad daylight; the grass is green; the trees are in full bloom. One woman heard on the video recalls having been in the shower when she heard pops. Could it have been fireworks?
“Not this time of the day,” says a male voice, apparently from the person who shot the video on a cell phone. “There ain’t no fireworks this early.”
Those lined up outside the yellow police tape waste no time discussing, often in expletive-laden terms, what happened. And the video dutifully records it all.
It’s not clear who saw what or what exactly transpired. Regardless, a clear consensus emerges among those heard on the recording: The young man in the street — later ID’d as Michael Brown, an 18-year-old days away from starting classes at a technical college — was shot dead by a Ferguson police officer.
Authorities would later claim Brown attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun. But in the minutes after the shooting, the irate crowd on the Ferguson street comes to a different consensus, summed up by the video’s narrator: “They just killed this (man) for no reason.”
As Brown’s body lay prone — for minutes with no one, not even a police officer, in the camera’s sight — onlookers quickly establish one key fact amongst themselves: He wasn’t armed.
“There is nothing!” a woman yells out on the video. “Do you see a gun? Do you see a knife? Do you see anything that would have caused a threat to these (expletive) police officers?”
“They shot that boy because they wanted to shoot that boy.”
If the moments leading up to Brown’s shooting were frenetic, the moments afterward — at least right around his body — are eerily calm as captured on the continuing video.
For minutes, there is nothing and no one around his body. Just a young man with a white shirt flat on the street, all alone.
A police officer walks by two minutes into the video, and a minute later a man in a black shirt — who witnesses identify as a family member — approaches. But he’s quickly guided away by officers.
A short time later, a uniformed man — perhaps a paramedic — appears to check on Brown. Multiple officers eventually flank his body.
One particularly angry, loud woman cries out: “Where’s the ambulance? Why doesn’t somebody help this man? Why isn’t somebody helping him?”
To which a man responds, more quietly, to no one in particular: “They know he’s dead, because they are not even trying to get him up.”
Everything about Brown is plain to see.
Until 10 minutes in, when a police officer comes up to lay a small white sheet over his body.
As the video ends, it is only the beginning in Ferguson.