On August 9, 2014, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. The police department in this predominantly black suburb of St. Louis is 94 percent white.

Eyewitnesses to the shooting claim that Michael Brown’s hands were raised in submission when Officer Wilson opened fire, striking him six times, two of the gunshots striking him in the head. Brown’s body was left in the street for approximately four hours after the shooting. In the days following the incident, protests erupted in the streets of Ferguson, often turning violent as demonstrators clashed with state and local police who were armed with armored vehicles, high-powered rifles, and tear gas.

A St. Louis county grand jury spent several months investigating the circumstances of Brown's death, and in the late hours of the evening of November 24, announced it would not indict Officer Wilson. As news spread through the community, grief-stricken residents and angry protesters filled the streets. Protests once again escalated to violent clashes with police and the widespread destruction and looting of property.