Edward Crawford—the man best known for being photographed while hurling a canister of tear gas during the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown in 2014—was found dead in his car on Thursday. Crawford was scheduled to meet with his attorney Jerryl Christmas that day to discuss a plea deal tied to the charge he was given for "interfering" with police during the protests in Ferguson. Crawford is the third prominent protester involved in the events in Ferguson to die within the last three years, and his death comes under similarly controversial circumstances.
Deadre Joshua was discovered shot and burned in his own car in November 2014. News of Joshua’s killing came in conjunction with headlines revealing that a grand jury declined to convict Wilson for killing Brown.
In September 2016, police declared the death of fellow Ferguson activist Darren Seals a homicide after his corpse was found in a burning vehicle. Seals was reportedly shot before his body was found.
Crawford, whose death comes just shy of his 28th birthday, was one of hundreds of Ferguson protesters charged by St. Louis County for assault and interfering with a police officer in the wake of protests surrounding Brown’s killing. The now-iconic photo of Crawford lobbing a teargas canister won the the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2015. The aforementioned charges stem from a belief Crawford was throwing the canister back at police officers, but Crawford repeatedly maintained he was throwing the canister away so it wouldn’t affect nearby children.
Much like Joshua and Seals, Crawford was shot in a vehicle. However, the cause of his death is under investigation after initially being ruled a suicide. According to police reports obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Crawford was in the rear seat of a car occupied by two women.
"The women told police that Crawford had started talking about how distraught he was over 'personal matters,'" wrote Post-Dispatch reporter Kim Bell. "They heard him rummaging for something in the backseat, and the next thing they knew he shot himself in the head."
Crawford’s father has gone on the record and said he doesn’t believe the police account of his son’s death. It should be noted that this is the same police force that was the subject of a 2015 Department of Justice report noting that 67 percent of African-Americans in Ferguson accounted for 93 percent of the city’s arrests made from 2012 through 2014. The report went on to add that the disproportionate number of tickets, arrests, and use of force stemmed from what was deemed "unlawful bias" and not black people committing more crimes.
RIP Edward.— deray mckesson (@deray) May 5, 2017
It’s unclear where Crawford’s body was found. He leaves behind four children. Community leaders and those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement publicly expressed their condolences upon hearing of Edwards’ death.