The mother of a black 18-year-old killed by white police officer speaks out
Syreeta Myers says her son did not have a gun; police say he did
Her son's troubles with the law, she says, did not justify his death
The day after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer, Syreeta Myers drove from her South City home to the northwest suburb of Ferguson. She marched on the street demanding justice for Brown’s death. She wanted to stand by his parents.
Two months later, Brown’s father was calling her. This time, it was Myers who was receiving support.
Like the Browns, she had lost a son.
VonDerrit Myers Jr. was 18, just like Michael Brown. He was a young black man killed by a white police officer.
“My issue is with crooked cops who won’t hesitate to kill a black man,” Syreeta Myers tells me on this dreary Sunday afternoon.
Brown was unarmed, and the grand jury investigating his killing is expected to make a decision any day now on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Myers hopes her son’s case will also be investigated to sort out opposing sides of the story.
“Picture if this was your kid. What would you want?” she would like to tell the grand jurors. “Base your decision on the facts.”
Just as in Brown’s case, the facts in Myers’ killing are disputed. And Myers’ case is far more complicated. At issue is whether or not a teenager who had a history with guns tried to shoot a police officer.
Police say that the October 8 confrontation in the city’s Shaw neighborhood began when Myers and two others ran from an off-duty police officer working for a private security firm.
Police have not released the officer’s name, but Jermaine Wooten, an attorney for the Myers family, identified him. Wooten says the name was included in an evidence sheet inadvertently left with VonDerrit Myers’ body when it was brought to the funeral home.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said it had independently verified the officer as Jason H. Flanery. Police would not confirm the name for CNN. The officer is on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
The officer was in his car and chased Myers and the two others because he thought one of them had a handgun, police said.
He tussled with Myers, police said, and then Myers fired three shots at the officer. The officer fired back with 17 rounds and killed him. Police said they found Myers with a stolen gun that matched three bullets that were recovered near the officer’s location. They also said tests confirmed gunshot residue on Myers’ hand, T-shirt and jeans. The residue, police said, could mean a person fired a gun, or was near a gun when it was fired.
Family disputes police account
But Syreeta Myers tells a different version of what happened on the night that she lost her only child.
She refers to witness accounts of Myers running away and begging for his life when the officer shot him. She says her son was holding a sandwich, which he was seen buying on a shop surveillance video, and not a gun.
Wooten says VonDerrit Myers pleaded with the officer.
“Stop, stop. Don’t shoot.”