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How police-involved killings have shaped culture

Killings of unarmed men, shootings of cops affect ever-changing climate

A casket and memorial photo sit inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, the site of Michael Brown's funeral.
A casket and memorial photo sit inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, the site of Michael Brown's funeral. (Pool)

Shoot or don't shoot -- it's a question police officers have to answer in just seconds. Last year, the issue made it to the national spotlight after an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, decided to shoot.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot six times on the night of Aug. 9. According to the Ferguson Police Department's chief of police, Brown was unarmed. Officer Darren Wilson said he was assaulted by Brown. During the struggle, Wilson said Brown reached for his gun. The Ferguson Police Department immediately began an investigation and the FBI announced two days after the shooting, it would also conduct a parallel investigation. On Nov. 24, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for shooting Brown.
 
Violent protests in Ferguson following the grand jury's announcement sparked a major movement in the country. Activists around the nation said black men are treated unfairly by the justice system and that "black lives matter" -- citing events including the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the grand jury decision to not indict the officer in Staten Island, New York, who killed Eric Garner in a take-down maneuver. Both Martin and Garner were unarmed. The moments leading up to Garner's death were caught on camera. In the video, Garner can be heard repeatedly telling the officers, "I can't breathe." The officer told the grand jury he never meant to choke Garner, but many described the maneuver as a choke hold.
 
Social media began buzzing with hashtags like #DONTSHOOT, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #ICantBreathe.
 
Simply put -- it lit a fire.
 
In Jacksonville, 19 people were arrested on Dec. 18 for illegally stopping traffic during a protest on the Hart Bridge. One woman was even accused of punching an officer in the face while resisting arrest. The protesters said they hoped to shed light on racism in the country.
 
But the anti-police fire dwindled on Dec. 20, when two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in Brooklyn, New York, were shot and killed inside their cruiser. The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot and killed himself shortly after. Investigators said Brinsley took to social media before the attack, citing the Brown and Garner cases and looking to avenge their deaths.
 
The ambush-style shooting started another movement -- this time in favor of police officers. It also put dozens of departments around the country on high alert.
 
Hash tags on social media started popping up like #BlueLivesMatter.
 
In Flagler County, Detective Jonathan Dopp even submitted an editorial to FlaglerLive.com, describing the real-life situations police find themselves in and how quickly things transpire when adrenaline is rushing.