Darren Seals was just 29-years-old when he was found shot to death inside of a burning car on September 6, 2016. Seals played a prominent role in the Ferguson protests after the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Brown was black. Wilson is white. Despite the evidence of Brown having committed no crime, the grand jury in the case chose not to charge Mr. Wilson for the senseless murder of an innocent man. Since the shooting, the town’s police department has faced intense scrutiny over its policies; a federal report asserted Ferguson’s police force showed devastating bias against blacks, leading several members of the force, including police chief Thomas Jackson, to resign their positions. What began as a local protest eventually spread to other cities that have faced similar instances of increased police brutality directed toward African-Americans.
Darren Seals was inspired to act after seeing images of Michael Brown lying dead in the street for hours after being killed. When news of the grand jury’s decision not to charge Wilson with murder broke, Seals could be seen cradling Brown’s distraught mother in his arms. He later posted about the incident on social media writing, “After they dropped it his mom broke down so bad it hurt my soul. It was like I felt her soul crying. It’s a different type of crying. I’ve seen people crying, but she was really hurt. And it hurt me. It hurt all of us.”
Seals was all too familiar with racial inequity, having had his own experience with police in Ferguson where officers allegedly drew guns on him and his brother while both were unarmed and not in violation of the law. The factory worker and aspiring hip-hop artist began reaching out to media outlets and fellow activists in an effort to organize peaceful protests to shed light on the issue. He claimed before erupting into violence, the gathering in Ferguson was nothing more than friends and neighbors coming together to help the Brown family deal with their loss; they stood with each other collecting donations while offering their heartfelt condolences. He said, “It wasn’t even a protest yet. … It was a black boy being shot in the community. It was about 10 other women and men out there, and the family. Before it became a riot, before it became a protest, it was just the community coming together.”
The media continued to speak with Seals, who fellow activists referred to as “King,” after the protest ended, where he remained vocal about police brutality, white privilege and his appreciation for those who expressed their belief in educating and empowering members of the black community. Most recently, he tweeted his support for Colin Kaepernick’s conscious choice to sit during the National Anthem in protest over police brutality, condemning the NFL for its treatment of the athlete over exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.
Seals’ body was found by St. Louis police in an actively burning car. Once the fire had been extinguished, police were able to identify Seals as the victim, along with the fact he had suffered a gun shot wound. The case is being investigated as a homicide; as of now, no suspects have been identified