An off-duty police officer shot dead Vonderrit Myers Jr, an 18 year old black man, in St. Louis, Missouri on Wednesday 8 October.
The unnamed police officer was wearing his police uniform while working for GCI, a private security firm. The practice of police officers taking second jobs as security guards is widespread. GCI alone employed 168 officers in 2012. The wearing of police uniform is permitted by the state police department. It appears that these security firms are often employed to patrol residential streets.
St Louis metropolitan police chief, Sam Dotson, said three men including Vonderrit ran away when they encountered the officer. Before any confrontation or crime, the officer chased the three men. It is claimed he suspected one of them of carrying a gun because of the way he was running.
Dotson went on to claim that one of the men turned around and fired three shots. The officer then responded with returning 17 rounds of fire, killing Vonderrit. Dotson was unable to state why the officer fired so many shots.
Relatives of Vonderrit have claimed that he was holding a sandwich that was mistaken for a gun.
Information in this case is much harder to come by than in the recent case of Michael Brown, shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson in St Louis suburb Ferguson. The St Louis police department appears to have learnt some lessons from Ferguson and has not responded to protests with violence and is keeping information out of the public domain. Whether or not Vonderrit was carrying a gun it is clear that racial profiling plays a role in such cases. The choice to chase the men, on suspicion of carrying a gun, was taken by the officer despite being off duty.
Thousands have already protested in St Louis in connection with the killing. They have joined up with protests which demand that Darren Wilson is charged with murder over Michael Brown.