Mysterious Deaths of Ferguson Protesters Worry Activists

Six young men tied to the 2014 protest in Ferguson, Missouri have died in strange circumstances, raising concerns among activists.

Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, igniting a massive unrest in Ferguson (and around the country) in August 2014. In November of the same year, a grand jury declined charges against Wilson, deepening violent demonstrations and marking the fatal outcome of some of the young activists.

According to the Associated Press, the body of Deandre Joshua was found inside a burned car near the protests in 2014. He was shot in the head before the car was incinerated, the news outlet reported. In September 2016, 29-year-old Darren Seals died in similar circumstances. Seals was seen in videos comforting Wilson’s mother, Lezely McSpadden.

Of the four other deaths, three were ruled a suicide. Columbus, Ohio native MarShawn McCarrel reportedly shot himself in February 2016 by the Statehouse’s doorstep. Twenty-seven-year-old Edward Crawford, who was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo throwing a tear gas canister back at police, allegedly shot himself in May 2017. According to the police, Crawford told acquaintances he was going through personal issues, AP reported.

Danye Jones, 24, was discovered hanging from a tree in the backyard of his house in St. Louis County last October. Although authorities ruled the death a suicide, his mother, Melissa McKinnies posted, “They lynched my baby.” McKinnies was also active in the Ferguson protests. Palestinian American Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old who livestreamed footage of the Ferguson protests, allegedly died of an overdose of fentanyl while he was on a bus in November, toxicology results found.

Police have said that their deaths are not linked to foul play, despite activists’ belief that white supremacists may have been involved. The incidents have alarmed the activist community, which claims that they have also faced threats and harassment. “These protesters and their deaths may not be a high priority for (police) since there is this antagonistic relationship,” Odis Johnson, a sociologist at the Washington University in St. Louis, told AP. “I think there is a need for them to have a greater sense of urgency.”

Cori Bush, another leader during the Ferguson protests, told the news outlet that “something is happening,” adding that she was also “vocal about the things that I’ve experienced and still experience — the harassment, the intimidation, the death threats, the death attempts.” According to Bush, her house was vandalized and someone fired a bullet into her car in 2014.

Five of the men who died were Black, and their deaths are also an indicative of the hardships African American youth have to endure. According to the 2010 US Census, people who live in western St. Louis County — a predominantly white, wealthy area—are expected to live well into their 80s. Conversely, parts of the northern area of St. Louis County, which is mostly Black, has a life expectancy of 56.

Black people living in St. Louis are three times more likely to be poor than whites, leading to a scarcity of physical and mental health services, Rolling Stone reported.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and U.S. politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.