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New police shooting in St. Louis stirs Ferguson unease

August 19, 2014 at 6:12 PM EDT
A new shooting threatened to inflame protests in Ferguson, Missouri. St. Louis police shot and killed a man after he robbed a market and confronted officers with a knife. Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today about response to the new incident. The NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman reports on the disruption that the protests pose to the city’s children, who have been out of school all week.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn our focus again to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

And we start with reporter Yamiche Alcindor from USA Today. I spoke with her a short time ago.

Yamiche, thank you for talking with us again.

It sounds as if things were calm there in Ferguson until this shooting this afternoon over in Saint Louis. We just heard from the police Colonel Dotson.

What more you can add to what is known about what happened?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, USA Today: Well, I just — I just interviewed an eyewitness who said that he saw it from start to finish.

The shooting happened about — within about two minutes, he said that a many emerged from a convenience store holding donuts and juice. And a clerk was following him, saying, you stole this, you stole this. The police then showed up and screamed at the man to freeze and to put — and to come to them.

The man instead pulled out a knife and was waving it at police. It was at that time that police pulled out their weapons and shot him about 10 times. That’s what the eyewitness told me. People in that neighborhood are so scared.

I talked to a woman who has lived there for 48 years. And she said, please, I hope that what happened in Ferguson doesn’t happen in my community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche, what is the race of the police officers and the man who was shot?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The eyewitness told me that the officers were white and the young man was African-American.

That, of course, was from the — that was from an eyewitness that I interviewed. I’m not sure if Chief — if Colonel Dotson actually put out the race of the officers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, tell me, at this point — I know this has just happened a short time ago — do you get a sense that people are upset by this? Do they see this connected to what is going on in Ferguson or something unrelated?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: People are really, really upset.

As soon as I was — I was driving over to the scene, and as soon as I parked my car, I start hearing people screaming, “Don’t shoot, hands up.” That of course has been the rallying cry for people here that are supporting Michael Brown’s family. So, people instantly made the connection. People were instantly talking about Michael Brown at this new shooting scene.

And they were saying that here is another young black man who is being killed by police. They did, of course, say that he was waving a knife in front of police. And they thought, OK, well that’s still you provoking the police. But people still said, why couldn’t they have Tased him, why couldn’t they have shot him in his leg? Shooting somebody 10 times because they have stolen some donuts and juice and waved a knife at you, that might have been overuse of force.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. And I know one of the reports I heard was that the man was lunging at the police with the knife. So, we’re waiting for more information on that.

Before this happened, the authorities were asking people to please protest in the daylight hours, rather than at night. How are people responding to that in Ferguson?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Daylight — there’s still daylight here in Ferguson, so it’s really going to — what is really going to be important is what happens when night falls.

I can’t tell what you is going to happen when night falls. But I get a sense, just because I have been here for more than a week, that people are not going to go home when the sun sets. People were super, super angry at that new shooting scene, saying that they’re going to voice their opinion, that they’re going to protest this.

People said that QuikTrip has been ground zero for the protesters of Michael Brown. And they said that, we’re going back to QuikTrip. The people that I have talked to said, we’re going back to QuikTrip.

I think that it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw people, dozens of people, maybe even hundreds of people, at QuikTrip today. But, again, because it’s still not sunset here, I can’t say what’s going to happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Yamiche, are there voices, leaders in the community who are urging people to step back, to calm down? What are the leading voices saying now?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It was very interesting.

As soon as the police finished their press conference telling the media and actually the members of the community what happened with this new shooting, Antonio French, a politician here in Ferguson, then talked to the crowd and said, this is — we’re going to be patient in our neighborhood. I promise we’re going to figure out what happened with this young man, but please be patient.

And he start urging people in the crowd who were screaming, “Don’t shoot, hands up,” he said, please, you can protest if you want to, but try to remain patient. Try to remain calm.

So, as soon as the shooting happened, as soon as police started telling people what happened, the community leaders here reacted instantly and instantly started telling people, please keep the peace. Please keep the peace. Please don’t loot. And please just go home and — and try to be as peaceful as you can when you’re protesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we will see what happens in the hours to come.

Yamiche Alcindor with USA Today, thank you for talking with us again.

Well, understandably, daily life has been dramatically disrupted for the citizens of Ferguson. And that’s especially true for the town’s children. Schools have been closed all week.

In addition to education, they are the source of meals for many kids in the community.

The NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman is there, and he spoke this afternoon with Jana Shortt. She’s the spokeswoman for the school district.

QUINN BOWMAN: This has been a really tough period for Ferguson and the surrounding areas. Talk to me specifically about how it affects the kids here.

JANA SHORTT, Director of Communications, Ferguson-Florissant School District: Yes.

The basic needs of children are being affected by this conflict. Our school district serves we have more than 75 percent free and reduced lunch. So, we have students that we know rely on school for food. And so we wish that, if we were in school, these students would be receiving meals. So, we have taken steps to make sure that they can have access to that food by serving lunches in the coming days.

QUINN BOWMAN: So, why have you decided to close the schools in Ferguson?

JANA SHORTT: Well, certainly, our decision to close school really reflects the seriousness of the situation.

We have concerns about our students’ safety getting to school, roads being closed, access to and from buildings, debris on the streets from these nightly conflicts that are in the area, particularly close to where some of the protests are occurring.

You have to imagine that, nightly, they’re hearing the sound cannons. And they’re being kept awake. And their families’ schedules are being disrupted. And it’s hard for some of them to leave the house, to get food and other things.

They should be top of mind for all of us. And serving them and helping them get back to normalcy is essential.

QUINN BOWMAN: When the kids come back, what do you expect?

JANA SHORTT: We’re just so eager to get our students back in the classroom. And we think some important conversations are going to happen in our classrooms when kids get back to school. But we can’t bring them back to school until it’s safe to do so.