Edward Crawford became one of the most prominent symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement in August 2014, when a picture was taken of the Ferguson activist throwing a tear gas canister away from crowds during protests that came in the wake of the death of Michael Brown Jr. In early May of this year, at the age of 27, Crawford was found shot to death in the backseat of a car.
Soon after news of the incident broke, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (a publication local to the region surrounding Ferguson, Missouri) released the first primary account of Crawford’s sudden death.
“(Crawford) was in a car when the gun went off. Two women were in the car with him, police say. The women told police that Crawford had started talking about how depressed he was. They heard him fumbling around for something, and the next thing they knew he shot himself.”
Police investigators initially determined the young advocate’s death to be a result of (either deliberately or accidentally) self-inflicted wounds, but doubts from the man’s family as well as growing backlash online have brought up suspicions of foul play. A widely-cited article published via The Root points to a common pattern of similar deaths as grounds for doubt, citing the 2016 death of activist Darren Seals and protester DeAndre Joshua’s demise the night of the Mike Brown ruling in 2014 as specific examples of related cases.
Darren Seals’ remains, like Crawford’s, were found bullet-riddled and discarded in the backseat of his own vehicle. Unlike Crawford, Seals’ car had also been set ablaze. Darren Seals was a well-known, highly outspoken local activist who had previously been shot during the Ferguson protests but had twice survived the gunfire. According to officers investigating the homicide, the 29-year-old had been shot six times before being left for dead in the backseat of his car on his final day.
According to a Washington Post report, Seals had become one of St. Louis’ most prominent community organizers in the years following Michael Brown’s extrajudicial killing. Fellow activist and close friend Mya Aaten-White spoke with the post about his legacy and reputation.
“Every time he talked about getting shot, he would say that moment forever changed his life. In that moment he made an agreement with himself to give his life to his community.”
Following news of Seals’ death last year, many were quick to connect the murder to that of DeAndre Joshua, a protestor who had perished under similar circumstances two years prior. The 20-year-old protester was found dead by gunshot wounds in a torched car on the first night of chaotic protests surrounding the Mike Brown verdict in November of 2014. Local police investigators, having never identified a suspect in Joshua’s case, acknowledged the pattern, with St. Louis County police spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire releasing a statement regarding the matter.
“They (investigators) are aware that DeAndre Joshua died in the same kind of way. Anything’s a possibility. Our detectives are always going to look into different avenues, or if it’s the same kind of motive.”
With relations between law enforcement groups, activists, and residents remaining tense in the controversy-ridden town, some have suggested that the police might have even been strategic and purposeful in their initial dismissal of the recent death of the Edward Crawford as unrelated to the cases of Seals and Joshua.
Missouri state Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal was quick to speak out on the matter on the Senate Floor after issuing a series of tweets breaking the news in anguish.
[Featured Image by Charles Krupa/AP Images]