It may take the efforts of the Justice Department and the FBI to get to the bottom of the tragic death of an 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Missouri. It would also help if the local police were forthcoming with information about the case.
Several nights of racially-charged protest, vandalism and clashes with police have followed Saturday’s incident, in which Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by an officer in the St. Louis suburb.
A friend who was walking with Mr. Brown said the officer fired his gun when the two young men refused to leave the middle of the street for the sidewalk. He said Mr. Brown’s hands were above his head when the officer shot him. Police said Mr. Brown was shot during a skirmish with the officer that caused him to seek hospital treatment afterward.
Through Thursday afternoon, police had not identified the officer who fired the shots and who has been placed on administrative leave, saying threats have been made against him, his family and the department. But withholding the officer’s name only stoked the community’s fury that authorities may be engaged in a cover-up.
Ferguson is the latest fatal incident to tear at citizen-police relations. One doesn’t have to be African-American to be concerned about how an unarmed young man comes to be shot and killed by a police officer.
None of this, however, excuses the vandalism and violence that erupted after Mr. Brown’s shooting. Looting is not a form of protest; Molotov cocktails are no way to get answers.
The best way to put out Ferguson’s fires and to begin restoring trust is to release more information on the case and make sure that justice, wherever the facts lead, is done.