The Crusader Newspaper Group

Who killed Ferguson activist Darren Seals?

By Wesley Lowery,

When the gunfire stopped on Aug. 3, 2013, Darren Seals had six gunshot wounds. The then-26-year-old, known for running with a rough crowd, had been hit as he stood outside his cousin’s house, waiting for a ride. The first tore through his stomach. Three more hit his hands, which he had thrown up to block his face. As he fell to the ground, two more bullets struck his feet.

It was the second time he’d been shot, according the account Seals would later provide in interviews and social media posts.

The third, and final time, came earlier this week.

St. Louis County Police say the remains of Seals’s lifeless body, which had at least one gunshot wound, were found early Tuesday morning inside his vehicle, which had been set aflame. Police are investigating his death as a homicide.

During the past three years, Seals had become among St. Louis’s most prominent anti-violence advocates and a co-founder of Hands Up United, an activist collective formed after the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

“Every time he talked about getting shot, he would say that moment forever changed his life,” said Mya Aaten-White, a St. Louis-based activist and close friend of Seals’s. “In that moment he made an agreement with himself to give his life to his community.”


Seals decided that once he got out of the hospital after his 2013 shooting he would join the ranks of local anti-gun-violence activists, according to accounts he gave in previous interviews and recollections of those who knew him. Not long later, he added police brutality to his list of causes. He was a “day-one” Ferguson protester — among the first to take to the streets to demand justice after Brown’s death.

“After Mike Brown, we saw it as our responsibility to step up,” said Aaten-White, who first met Seals on Aug. 9, 2014, the day Brown was killed, as they both stood with the crowd that was gathering at the QuikTrip gas station.

In interviews Wednesday, more than a dozen prominent St. Louis-area activists and organizers recalled Seals as an energetic yet polarizing figure within the protest movement. Not in the business of earning goodwill, Seals was scorned by many prominent activists yet beloved by a cadre of local activists who regarded him as a brave truth-teller. This week he is being mourned by both groups.

“He was a frontline solider, a warrior,” said Anthony Shahid, a longtime St. Louis activist, himself known as a sharp-tongued firebrand, who knew Seals well. “I loved that young brother, and I loved how he fearlessly stood up for our people.”

In many ways, Seals was a fitting symbol of the Ferguson protester: a local resident, not a trained activist or organizer, who saw Michael Brown’s dead body and the trauma that his death had inflicted on the community, members of which organically poured into the streets — bringing with them their baggage, their contradictions and their humanity.

“He represented the authenticity of Ferguson: that rawness, that realness, that readiness,” said Alexis Templeton, a Ferguson activist who at times publicly clashed with Seals.

“There is just a relationship that St. Louis folks have with each other where it’s still love,” Templeton said. “He’s a human being, he was out there with me, we both got arrested during those protests, we shared the experience of Ferguson. That makes us blood.”


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