University City, MO - Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal is recklessly fueling a wild conspiracy theory that police are quietly assassinating Ferguson protesters.
On Friday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Edward Crawford had been found dead overnight from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Crawford was pictured in Robert Cohen's iconic photograph which showed him throwing a tear gas canister back at police during the rioting which followed the justified shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.
The shooting was reported in the 1400 block of Salisbury Street, in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood. An autopsy will determine if the cause of death was suicide or accidental discharge, but the two witnesses in the car with him at the time painted a clear picture.
The women told police that Crawford was talking about how upset he was over "personal matters." They heard him rummaging for something in the back seat and then he shot himself in the head.
Crawford's father, told the Post-Dispatch that he believes that the shooting was accidental and that Crawford did not appear suicidal.
Following the announcement of the self-inflicted gunshot wound, Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal took to Twitter to let people know that "Ferguson's hero" was "shot to death," making no mention that the shooting was self-inflicted.
The information in the tweet seems to suggest that Edward Crawford's death was actually a homicide. Her tweet was then re-tweeted thousands of times in just the first couple of hours after it went up. The people replying made it clear that they didn't believe that the shooting was self-inflicted, with some suggesting that it was actually a "police hit squad."
A skeptical reader might think that perhaps Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal just made a thoughtless error in her wording, and perhaps it's just her followers taking the lead on this conspiracy theory. We took a look at her follow-up tweets to see if she had anything else to say on the matter.
In a follow-up tweet she made her position pretty clear, "Thank you. It is now not coincidental. There is a murderer targeting activists from #Ferguson. #WeAreNotInvisible #Resist"
In her Twitter feed, Chappelle-Nadal is also re-tweeting conspiracy theorists that are saying that Crawford's death was a homicide.
There are many more of these reckless statements re-tweeted by Chappelle-Nadal.
In the tweets, the conspiracy theorists like Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal are apparently referencing the murder of Darren Seals.
Seals, an activist and Black Lives Matter supporter, was found shot dead inside a burning vehicle in St. Louis County just a few miles away from Ferguson. At the time of his death, there was a widespread conspiracy theory on social media that Seals was murdered by a police hit squad. His murder remains unsolved.
In the mind of Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal and her followers, somehow the homicide of Seals and the self-inflicted gunshot wound to Edward Crawford eight months later must somehow be connected because they were both activists.
Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal's statements are reckless and is likely to result of increased strain in relations between the public and police, if not outright violence. To make a statement that, "There is a murderer targeting activists," is far beyond what any responsible elected official should ever say, she owes the entire state of Missouri an apology.