“The way St. Louis streets work, we’re afraid out here. We’re afraid of the police. We’re afraid of other youth who may want to pull a gun and fire on you. So, sometimes people have guns just to protect themselves, not with the intentions to do a criminal act with it.”
Those are the words of Carlos Ball, whose 25-year-old brother, Cary Ball Jr., was shot and killed by St. Louis police on April 24, after fleeing from a traffic stop.
Police, who “were on a special ‘hot spot‘ detail near Ninth and Carr streets in the Columbus Square neighborhood”, say they tried to stop Cary’s car twice but he kept driving and eventually crashed into a parked car. Cary exited the vehicle and ran, forcing police to chase after him on foot. Then, according to police, Cary pulled out an automatic handgun and pointed it at the officers, leaving them no choice but to open fire. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
But witnesses are telling a much different story. They say that Cary stopped running, put his gun to the ground and threw his hands in the air in a clear attempt at surrender to police. Then they watched as police shot Cary 25 times. Activists say Cary was shot seven times in the back, however I have yet to independently verify this.
Cary’s family, friends and social justice activists have held two rallies organized by Zaki Baruti to demand a proper investigation into his death. “We are making every effort to first, inform the public as well as mobilize the public to put an end to this kind of police violence,” Baruti told KMOX. “The police ought to be protecting and serving the community but we do have almost like vigilante kinds of officers on the force that need to be removed immediately.”
At a protest last week in front of police headquarters, Carlos Ball did not deny that his brother was armed with a stolen gun but he explained to KMOX that Cary was an ex-convict who felt he needed a gun for protection. He ran from police because he knew it was illegal for an ex-felon to have a gun, said Carlos.
Cary served three years for armed robbery when he was 17 and two and half years for a misdemeanor offense in violation of his probation. But he had since turned his life around.
Prior to his deadly encounter with police, Cary was an honor student majoring in human services at Forest Park Community College with an average GPA of 3.86. He was even honored as an “emerging scholar.”
The officers who shot Cary are on administrative leave pending further investigation. Meanwhile, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters that the department has taken statements from a few witnesses who have been willing to speak with them.
Freeman Bosley Junior is currently representing Cary’s family. KMOX described Bosley as “a former Mayor of St. Louis” who law firm “is also involved in pending litigation against the city, claiming jail guards encouraged inmates to fight each other “gladiator style” for the guard’s amusement.”
In the meantime, I’m trying to get my hands on Cary’s autopsy report to confirm where and and how he was shot. Even if he did point a gun at officers, 25 bullets is rather excessive. And given that Cary was a black man, it’s completely plausible that he dropped his gun and tried to surrender before getting shot. Police have killed men of color for far less (reaching for a wallet, holding a cell phone, adjusting a waistband, etc.).