Deaths of six Ferguson, MO activists generating fear and suspicion

Since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, six people who were connected in some way to the protests that followed the incident have died.

Is someone or some group targeting Ferguson activists for death?

Associated Press:

Two young men were found dead inside torched cars.  Three others died of apparent suicides.  Another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.

Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play.

Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and that only two were homicides.  But activists and observers remain puzzled, especially since people involved in the protests continue to face harassment and threats.

Some of the deaths, under the circumstances, seem suspicious:

Fox News:

One of the first activists to die was Deandre Joshua, according to the Associated Press. Joshua, 20, was shot in the head before his car was torched.

Darren Seals, who was shown on video during the night of the protests comforting Brown's mother, was shot multiple times with his body torched in a vehicle as well in September 2016.

Four others had also died, three of them ruled suicides.

MarShawn McCarrell, an Ohio man who was an activist in Ferguson, shot himself outside the Ohio Statehouse in February 2016, police said.

Edward Crawford Jr., 27, shot himself in May 2017 after telling his friends he was upset over personal issues, police said.  Crawford was seen in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo firing a canister back at Ferguson police during the protests.

Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree in a yard north of his home in October.  His mother claimed that he had been lynched but the death was ruled a suicide, according to the Associated Press.

Bassem Masri, 31, was found unresponsive on a bus and toxicology results showed he had died as a result of a fentanyl overdose.  The Palestinian American had livestreamed Ferguson demonstrations.

Many activists still feel a sense of hopelessness after the protests.  But it's unclear if the suicides had been related to the effects of the Ferguson aftermath.

What's going on?  Against the backdrop of the protests, these random events become ordered in our minds and connected simply because that's how our brains are hardwired.  What do we know about these dead men?  The "activists" involved in the protests do not live in safe, crime-free neighborhoods.  Is it easier to believe in a conspiracy to kill protesters?  Or is it easier to accept that random acts of violence occurred?  Is it easier to believe that three deaths were made to look like suicides, but they were murdered by white supremacists?  Or is it easier to believe that hopeless, desperate, poor people decided to end their own lives?

Occam's razor is useful here.  The simplest explanation is the best one.  You can't necessarily fault people for believing they are being targeted.  Black protesters have been targeted before.  But people with only a tangential connection to the protests, as these six dead men were, are almost certainly not being targeted for death.

Since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, six people who were connected in some way to the protests that followed the incident have died.

Is someone or some group targeting Ferguson activists for death?

Associated Press:

Two young men were found dead inside torched cars.  Three others died of apparent suicides.  Another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.

Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play.

Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and that only two were homicides.  But activists and observers remain puzzled, especially since people involved in the protests continue to face harassment and threats.

Some of the deaths, under the circumstances, seem suspicious:

Fox News:

One of the first activists to die was Deandre Joshua, according to the Associated Press. Joshua, 20, was shot in the head before his car was torched.

Darren Seals, who was shown on video during the night of the protests comforting Brown's mother, was shot multiple times with his body torched in a vehicle as well in September 2016.

Four others had also died, three of them ruled suicides.

MarShawn McCarrell, an Ohio man who was an activist in Ferguson, shot himself outside the Ohio Statehouse in February 2016, police said.

Edward Crawford Jr., 27, shot himself in May 2017 after telling his friends he was upset over personal issues, police said.  Crawford was seen in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo firing a canister back at Ferguson police during the protests.

Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree in a yard north of his home in October.  His mother claimed that he had been lynched but the death was ruled a suicide, according to the Associated Press.

Bassem Masri, 31, was found unresponsive on a bus and toxicology results showed he had died as a result of a fentanyl overdose.  The Palestinian American had livestreamed Ferguson demonstrations.

Many activists still feel a sense of hopelessness after the protests.  But it's unclear if the suicides had been related to the effects of the Ferguson aftermath.

What's going on?  Against the backdrop of the protests, these random events become ordered in our minds and connected simply because that's how our brains are hardwired.  What do we know about these dead men?  The "activists" involved in the protests do not live in safe, crime-free neighborhoods.  Is it easier to believe in a conspiracy to kill protesters?  Or is it easier to accept that random acts of violence occurred?  Is it easier to believe that three deaths were made to look like suicides, but they were murdered by white supremacists?  Or is it easier to believe that hopeless, desperate, poor people decided to end their own lives?

Occam's razor is useful here.  The simplest explanation is the best one.  You can't necessarily fault people for believing they are being targeted.  Black protesters have been targeted before.  But people with only a tangential connection to the protests, as these six dead men were, are almost certainly not being targeted for death.