WASHINGTON - The languorous dog days of August were shattered this week by the tragic, shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in a little town in Missouri.
Hundreds of youths are shot and killed each year in our country. More than 100 were gunned down in gangland or drive-by shootings in Chicago alone in just one year. But the death of Michael Brown, who just graduated from high school and hoped to pursue higher education, has seized the nation's attention like no other.
The still-murky shooting episode by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer, which raised more questions than answers, shoved aside all other big news events -- from a repelled Russian convoy incursion across Ukraine's borders to the widening U.S. air combat role in Iraq to halt the Islamic State terrorist advances on the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
As civil unrest spread in Ferguson, President Obama interrupted his two week vacation on Martha's Vineyard, flying back to Washington for hastily-arranged briefings and a White House news conference.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. planned to fly to the St. Louis suburb later this week to oversee the federal investigation. A 40-member team of FBI investigators were already on the ground, going door to door, gathering facts about the shooting. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, has called out the National Guard to back up local and state police to restore order within the community where tensions remain high.
Still, the slowly emerging investigation raised a host of questions about the multiple gun shots into Brown's body. He was riddled by at least six bullets fired from a distance of more than 30 feet from the officer's police car, after the two men had reportedly engaged in a struggle.
Why had Ferguson police been so slow to provide any details of the shooting, including an accounting of the officer's story? Why had they hidden his identity until forced by circumstances to reveal it?
They had quickly released a shadowy surveillance video and an accounting of a convenience store theft of some cigars, allegedly by Brown. But not a report, however preliminary, of when and in what way the officer responded when he saw Brown walking down the center of the street with a friend.
There were suspicions the local police were withholding crucial details as the shooting triggered days of protests and unrest that included looting of many downtown stores. Looters were, appropriately, arrested, charged and jailed.