Angry protests erupted again in St. Louis on Wednesday night after an 18-year-old man was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer — reigniting tensions in a city still reeling from the killing of Mike Brown in nearby Ferguson in August and the weeks of confrontations between residents and police that followed.
Vonderrit Myers — who like Brown, was African-American — was killed in a confrontation with an off-duty police officer who was working a second job at a private security company in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis.
Police say the unnamed officer was a six-year veteran of the St. Louis police department and that he responded with fire after the teen shot at him at least three times. The officer, who was not harmed, fired 17 times, though it is unclear how many times Myers was hit, police said.
Police also said they recovered a 9mm Ruger on the scene. But family members of the victim said the boy had no gun and was carrying only "a sandwich." The manager of the store Myers left moments before his death told a local reporter that, based on surveillance video, he believed the teen was not armed.
"He was unarmed," Teyonna Myers, who said she was a cousin, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It's like Michael Brown all over again."
Syreeta Myers told the AP today that the victim was her son, and that he wasn't armed. Antonio French, a community leader and a regular presence at the Ferguson protests, was on the scene last night, and tweeted that Myers was at the scene and fainted.
News of the shooting quickly spread over social media, and a few hundred people gathered to protest on the site of the incident, staying well into the night and shouting "black lives matter" — one of the slogans most common during the Ferguson protests of the last two months.
Jackie Williams, who said Myers was his nephew and lived with him, recalled witness accounts of the incident.
"My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich. Security was supposedly searching for someone else. They tased him," he said. "I don't know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That's outright murder."
Police denied the officer had a taser.
They also said that Myers, who was a high school student, "was no stranger to law enforcement." According to online court documents viewed by VICE News, Myers was due in court in November on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest.
In the video below, St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson briefs reporters on the shooting.
Police also said the officer clearly saw the teen was armed, and that police recovered three projectiles shot in the direction of the officer.
A police spokesman said nobody was arrested at the protests.
"Chief Dotson and his department responded with restraint, professionalism — and transparency," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said in a statement on his Facebook page. "Officers addressed the crowd directly with all the information that was available. The department used its social media accounts to pass along what it knew. The department was supported at the scene by community and neighborhood members with whom it had built relationships in the past."
Slay announced that the evidence gathered would be turned over to a local circuit attorney to consider criminal charges, and to the federal prosecutor to review for federal civil rights violations.
"Whatever the outcome, it is vitally important that everyone in our city and beyond has confidence in the investigation and the results," he said. "Just as importantly, if no charges are filed, the circuit attorney will release all of the investigative evidence and information so everyone knows exactly what happened."
Cheyenne Green, a member of the Lost Voices — a group of local youth who organized in the wake of the Mike Brown rallies — was at last night's protest until 3am.
"Last night there was a guy killed. He was a junior. He got shot 16 times by the cops," she said today.
"I think it was wonderful to see that many people, white, black, Mexicans, in solidarity, fighting for justice, standing our ground, having the cops back down," she added.
The shooting comes just before "Ferguson October" — a weekend of protests planned by local residents scheduled to start on Friday.
Groups from across the country have pledged to show up in Ferguson to show solidarity, and organizers have said they expect 6,000 to 10,000 people to participate.
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi