When a Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown outside Canfield Apartments in August, 2014, Darren Seals was one of the first people at the scene supporting Brown's family. In the two years that followed, Seals co-led many of the protests in the St. Louis area, calling for criminal justice reform and an end to structural oppression against people of color.
Early Wednesday, police found Seals shot and killed inside a burning vehicle in the Riverview suburb of St. Louis County. The 29-year-old's death is being investigated as a homicide.
Mya Aaten-White, a fellow activist and close friend said she hopes the community will press police to find Seals' killer.
“His mission in life was really to bring people together, more than pull people apart,” Aaten-White said. “That’s something that I think people need to keep in mind. It [should be] a call for people to really stand up against the things that are wrong, that are clearly violations of humanity.”
Interviewed for MTV News in November, 2014, Seals talked about how he viewed demonstrations decrying the deaths of black people at the hands of police:
"I don’t recall anyone having a longer protest, a more productive protest, a more creative protest than what we did. I don’t think people will ever really appreciate what we did until years from now. We really did the best we could....Our long-term goal is to educate young black men and young black women throughout the world on how to deal with police brutality, how to deal with the police, how to deal with traffic stops and learn their rights."
This week, people who went to the scene in Riverview took to social media to criticize the investigation as sloppy and careless, citing bullet casings and a car door left at the scene. Others have drawn a connection between Seals’ murder and those of other men found shot and burned in their cars.
In response, St. Louis County Police Public Information Coordinator Sgt. Shawn McGuire said:
"Our department conducts investigations as professionally as possible in every case. We have reached out to community members like we do in every homicide case. The public is crucial in all of these investigations."
Months ago, Seals reflected on his safety and how he would wanted those left behind to handle his death:
“It’s very eerie and it seems really personal," Aaten-White said. "You know, that’s a lot of hatred you have to have toward a person to carry out that type of crime. Hopefully people can tap into their humanity and see him as a person beyond his beliefs.”
Aaten-White is among many who have proclaimed that they will continue the work that Seals started. He dreamed of creating a community center, working directly with students, dismantling oppression in the criminal justice system, and combating those he thought were exploiting Ferguson for their own ends.
“More than just an activist, more than just a Facebook or a social media personality, he was somebody’s son and somebody’s brother, and somebody’s mentor and somebody’s friend," she said. "He was a full, well-rounded human being.”
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