04:54 - Source: CNN
Story behind iconic Ferguson photo (2014)

Story highlights

The photo was taken during violence in Ferguson, Missouri

Edward Crawford's uncle says he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound

CNN  — 

It’s powerful. It’s visceral. It’s seared in our memory as one of the iconic images from those turbulent nights that followed a black man’s death at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri.

It’s the photograph of Edward Crawford, clutching a bag of chips in one hand as he cocks his arm back to throw a burning tear gas canister that riot police had fired to disperse protesters like Crawford. The photo was taken four days after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, and the city had erupted in protest.

Crawford has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his uncle, Lester Davis, confirmed to CNN on Friday. St. Louis coroner’s assistant Baxter Leisure said that a man with Crawford’s name had died.

Crawford’s uncle said he didn’t believe the death was suicide.

This Aug. 13, 2014, photo by St. Louis Post Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen shows Edward Crawford returning a tear gas canister fired by police who were trying to disperse protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.  Four days earlier, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot to death by white police officer Darren Wilson. The killing ignited riots and unrest in the St. Louis area and across the nation. Cohen and members of the St. Louis Post Dispatch photo staff are winners of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography it was announced Monday, April 20, 2015, at Columbia University in New York.

“I don’t want people to think it’s some conspiracy theory,” Davis said. “I don’t believe my nephew killed himself either, maybe it was an accident.”

The photo of Crawford was taken on August 13, 2014, by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen. It has been printed on T-shirts, repurposed by artists, even plastered onto cell phone cases. On Twitter, it’s been favorably compared to pictures from political revolutions in other countries – but also falsely cited as proof of violence by Crawford.

“Before the photo was taken, the canister … was shot and it landed a couple of feet away from me and some children standing on the sidewalk,” Crawford told CNN in 2014.

“I was not throwing the canister at the police; I was merely getting the canister away from me and the kids.”

Last year, MarShawn McCarrel, a Black Lives Matter activist involved in Ferguson protests, killed himself on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. At the time, the Columbus Dispatch reported it wasn’t clear why McCarrel, 23, shot himself, but hours earlier he had posted a message on Facebook saying, “My demons won today. I’m sorry.”

And in September, Darren Seals, another activist, was found dead in a burning car in St. Louis. Police said there was a single bullet wound to his head.

As for the Crawford family. “We just have to be there for each other, we’ve never dealt with anything like this,” an emotional Davis said.