A newspaper photographer who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said that the scene Sunday night in Ferguson, Missouri “was the most unpredictable” he’s witnessed.
David Carson, who takes pictures for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, showed up to Ferguson on Sunday, a day after a police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Brown was unarmed, and witnesses to his shooting say that he was surrendering as an officer opened fire. Authorities claim that Brown assaulted the officer and struggled for the cop’s service weapon.
While the police investigate, Ferguson residents and some outsiders from surrounding areas began protesting the incident. Bystanders and social media users voiced frustration that the shooting was racially motivated, as Brown is black.
Demonstrations began shortly after the shooting on Saturday and were peaceful at first. But the presence of police dogs and military-grade vehicles fueled the anger of the gathered crowd as well as many of those watching the scene unfold on social media.
The crowd turned violent Sunday night.
“He’s taking pictures,” a group yelled toward Carson as he was capturing the scene near a QuikTrip convenience store. “Get him. Kick his ass,” the group said, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Though he turned to run toward police, who were gathered a quarter-mile away, Carson’s military-grade war gear, his helmet, cameras and other photography equipment slowed him down.
He had picked up the equipment from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s “war closet,” he told Poynter. The contents of the closet have only been used for dispatches to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Carson worked two month-long stints, in Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2006.
The group chasing Carson caught up to him about 150 yards from a line of police officers. He was hit in the side of the head and fell, breaking one of his cameras.
But Carson resumed taking photos, capturing the looting taking place at the QuikTrip. Other stores in the St. Louis suburb were looted as well, including a Ross Dress for Less, AutoZone, a beauty supply store and grocery stores. Shots were also heard fired throughout the melee.
Brave enough to venture inside the store as it was being picked clean of groceries, lottery tickets and beer, Carson took pictures of a man who he said outweighed him by 100 pounds.
“What are you doing?” the man asked Carson, as he raised his shirt to expose a gun.
“I’m taking pictures,”Carson said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “Your face is covered. You’ll be fine.”
The man was satisfied with the answer and moved on.
The night ended with 32 arrests and two police officers wounded. On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the FBI will be reviewing Brown’s death for possible civil rights violations.