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Darren Seals: Ferguson Activist Found Dead In Burning Car With Gunshot Wound

(Reuters) – Missouri detectives have not determined a motive or identified any witnesses in an investigation into the death of a man who led protests in the city of Ferguson following the fatal 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a law enforcement officer, police said on Wednesday.

Protest leader Darren Seals, 29, was found shot inside a burning car in the village of Riverview, about five miles east of Ferguson, early on Tuesday, St. Louis County Police said in a statement.

Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, gained national attention because of rioting after the August 2014 shooting of Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by white police officer Darren Wilson. Most protests were peaceful, but violence erupted again when a grand jury decided not to bring charges against Wilson.

A federal investigation later found patterns of racial discrimination by Ferguson police.

The demonstrations helped to coalesce the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.

“I don’t recall anyone having a longer protest, a more productive protest, a more creative protest than what we did,” Seals said in an interview with MTV released in November 2014. “I don’t think people will ever really appreciate what we did until years from now.”

Hours before Seals‘ death, he posted on Twitter about Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers National Football League quarterback who protested racial injustice and police brutality by declining to stand for the national anthem, and the U.S. presidential election. In his Twitter profile, Seals described himself as a “businessman, revolutionary, activist, unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa, fighter, leader.”

Police have not determined a motive for the crime or identified any witnesses, Sergeant Shawn McGuire said. McGuire declined to say in which part of Seals‘ body he was shot.

County police said officers were first called to investigate a burning vehicle in Riverview. “When the fire was extinguished, a deceased male subject was located inside of the vehicle,” the department said in a statement.

Seals, whose last-known address was in St. Louis, was identified as the victim.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

Photo: An undated photo of Darren Seals from his facebook account. Darren Seals via Facebook/Handout via REUTERS

Hundreds Of Mourners Wait Outside Church For Michael Brown’s Funeral

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Mourners are gathering at a St. Louis church this morning for the funeral of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose shooting death Aug. 9 by a police officer began nearly two weeks of unrest in Ferguson.

The service is set to begin at 10 a.m. at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The church can seat about 2,500 people.

By 8 a.m., about 200 people were lined up outside the church waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m. One of those waiting was Markesha Coleman of East St. Louis. She said she wanted to show her support for Brown’s family.

“We want them to stand strong,” Coleman said. “We want justice for their family and their son. If we stand together, we can change this wrong.”

The Rev. Charles Ewing will deliver the eulogy for his nephew. He said his message is to heal the hurt, not just in Ferguson but the whole nation.

The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to speak, and three White House officials are expected to attend. Black elected leaders will be there too, such as U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis).

Brown was unarmed when he was fatally shot by the officer, Darren Wilson, on a street in Ferguson. According to an autopsy, Brown was shot at least six times. Other details surrounding the incident remain unclear. Police have said that Wilson shot Brown after a struggle over the officer’s handgun. A friend of Brown’s has told authorities that Wilson was the instigator and shot Brown after he raised his arms to surrender.

The shooting of Brown, who is black, by a white officer has fueled racial tensions.

A St. Louis County grand jury began hearing evidence in the case last week. Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch says it could be mid-October before all of the evidence has been presented to the grand jury. The jurors will decide if there is probable cause that a crime was committed and if Wilson, 28, committed it.

Federal investigators are conducting their own probe into the shooting, as well.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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Community Activism Lauded In Calm Ferguson Protests

By Kurtis Lee, Los Angeles Times

FERGUSON, Mo. — Community activism and the work of local clergy were lauded by law enforcement officials as the primary influences that led to a relatively calm night of protests overnight in Ferguson.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters remained orderly and police did not fire tear gas or seize any handguns.

Johnson said six people were arrested — a change from the previous night when law enforcement arrested 47 local and out-of-town protesters.

“Tonight was a very good night,” Johnson, who is overseeing security in Ferguson, told reporters in a news conference early Thursday morning.

Violent clashes between police and protesters have plagued this suburban St. Louis town in the weeks since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black male.

Johnson thanked residents of the community and clergy members for their support. Severe thunderstorms moved through the area Wednesday night, which prompted some protesters to take shelter in restaurants and parked cars.

“Even before the rain came, we saw a calm in the crowd,” Johnson said. “We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. We didn’t have as many of the agitators and criminals in the crowd.”

On Wednesday, a grand jury began hearing evidence in the case of Wilson. Some critics in the community have assailed St. Louis County head prosecutor Robert McCulloch for not pressing charges against Wilson in the controversial case clouded in racial tensions.

Local elected officials and clergy have called for McCulloch’s removal from the case, with frequent rallies in front of the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in St. Louis County. The rallies are set to continue on Thursday.

With protests calm on Wednesday night, brief confrontations emerged when a Missouri couple arrived along West Florissant Avenue with posters in support of Wilson.

“People never hear the other side,” said the woman, who would give only her first name, Dawn.

Dozens of protesters rushed toward the couple, some screaming obscenities, prompting police to form a protective shield around them and quickly escort them from the area.

“We’ll be out here every night until we get justice,” Tef Johnson, 27, shouted into a megaphone Wednesday toward police that lined West Florissant Avenue, which has become a popular gathering place for protesters.

Johnson wore a plain white T-shirt inked in black marker with the words “I am Mike Brown.”

“I do really feel like I’m him,” he said.

AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas

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Holder Visits Ferguson, Mo., In Bid To Have ‘Calming Influence’

By Kevin McDermott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met privately on Wednesday with the parents of Michael Brown, part of a one-day swing through the region by the nation’s top law enforcement official in the wake of 12 nights of riots and strife.

The stated purpose of Holder’s visit was to get a first-person update from Department of Justice officials here on the status of the pending federal investigation into Brown’s Aug. 9 shooting death by a Ferguson police officer. After meeting with his own St. Louis-based underlings, Holder met with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and key members of the state’s congressional delegation, including both its U.S. senators.

But the trip also had a clear tone-setting component, designed to show the White House is taking the Ferguson conflict seriously, in hopes of easing tensions in the community.

In addition to his private meeting with Brown’s parents, Holder met with students at an area community college, chatted with patrons of a Ferguson diner and literally embraced Capt. Ronald Johnson, the Missouri state trooper whose attempts to defuse the nightly showdowns have made him a national figure.

“My hope is that the trip I’m making out here … will have a calming influence on the area,” Holder told reporters. He said his appearance should be a signal to residents that “a thorough federal investigation is being done.”

Holder stressed that the pending federal investigation has a fundamentally different angle than the local criminal investigation. “We’re looking for violations of federal civil rights statutes,” Holder said.

Holder landed in the region about 11 a.m. His motorcade headed first to St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in Ferguson. The attorney general met with about a dozen students, and hugged one of them after the meeting.

One of the students in the meeting, Molyric Welch, 27, a mass communications student, said Holder told them, “Change is coming.”

“He told us we are the future and we need to stay focused on getting our education,” Welch said. The attorney general also “wanted to know how it felt to be a resident of this area.”

Student Dominique McCoy, 22, said, “We talked about how things can be changed, and how it has to start with us, the younger generation.”

Shortly before 1 p.m, Holder attended a closed-door meeting at the school with members of the Ferguson community. The Community Relations Service organized the meeting with about 50 people, according to the attorney general’s office.

“The eyes of the nation and the world are watching Ferguson right now,” Holder told them, according to a transcript provided later by his office. “This is something that has a history to it and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.”

The attorney general shared his own experiences of being singled out because he was black, including one incident in which he was stopped by police while going to watch a movie.

“At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid,” he said, according to the transcript. “I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I’ve confronted this myself.”

The attorney general later went to Drake’s Place, a restaurant just a few blocks from the site of nightly violence in Ferguson. He greeted customers — including the mayor of nearby Cool Valley, who happened to be there for lunch — and asked how they were doing.

“We’re doing pretty good, though it’s affecting a lot of municipalities,” Mayor Viola Murphy said of the protests and clashes in and around Ferguson. “We don’t want the world to know us for what is going on here.”

At the restaurant, Holder also encountered Johnson, who was put in charge of security in the Ferguson area by Nixon last week. Holder and Johnson embraced under the glare of television lights as patrons looked on.

Holder lauded Johnson for his leadership: “If you sustain that and get the community involved, we can turn this around.”

Johnson said the situation was getting better. Holder told him to “Keep up the good work and get a little rest.”

After Holder’s appearance, Johnson said the visit “will show the people of Ferguson and the country that their voices are heard.”

Holder then went to the FBI headquarters in St. Louis to meet with U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan and others. The attorney general briefly addressed reporters, saying that he wanted to be able to “look in the faces” of the agents who will conduct the federal investigation.

Late in the day, Holder went to the Eagleton Federal Courthouse in downtown St. Louis to meet with both parents of Michael Brown.

Afterward, in the same building, he met with elected officials, including Nixon, U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Roy Blunt (R-MO), and U.S. Reps. Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver, both Missouri Democrats.

AFP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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