It may take the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to get to the bottom of the tragic death of an 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Mo. It would also help if the local police were more forthcoming with information about the case.
Several nights of racially charged protest, vandalism, and clashes with police have followed last Saturday’s incident, in which Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by an officer in the St. Louis suburb.
A friend who was walking with Mr. Brown said the officer fired when the two young men refused to leave the middle of the street for the sidewalk. He said Mr. Brown’s hands were above his head when the officer shot him. Police said Mr. Brown was shot during a skirmish with the officer that caused him to seek hospital treatment afterward.
On Friday, Ferguson’s police department finally identified the officer who fired the shots. The police chief has placed the officer on administrative leave, saying threats have been made against him, his family, and the department. But delaying the release of the officer’s name stoked the community’s fury that authorities may be engaged in a cover-up.
The Ferguson incident is the latest fatal incident to tear at citizen-police relations. You don’t have to be African-American to be concerned about how an unarmed young man comes to be shot and killed by a police officer.
None of this excuses the vandalism and violence that erupted after Mr. Brown’s shooting. Looting is not protest; Molotov cocktails won’t get answers.
The best way to put out Ferguson’s fires and begin restoring trust is to release more information and to make sure that justice, wherever the facts lead, is done.