A look at town where police shot unarmed teenager

AP News
Posted: Aug 11, 2014 7:04 PM
A look at town where police shot unarmed teenager

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Tensions were high Monday in parts of suburban St. Louis after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man led to overnight looting, vandalism and dozens of arrests. A closer look at the community of Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed:

HISTORY: Incorporated in 1894 by founder William B. Ferguson as a railroad depot, the town quickly grew into a hub for freight and passenger traffic and a bedroom community for city workers. It also attracted many freed slaves looking for a home after the Civil War.

Before school desegregation, Ferguson and other parts of north St. Louis County were predominantly white. The racial makeup changed as many white suburban families moved to outlying areas such as St. Charles County, parts of which are more than 40 miles from St. Louis. Today, Ferguson is nearly 70 percent black.

POPULATION AND POVERTY: By 2010, the census counted about 21,000 people in Ferguson, which is about 10 miles north of downtown St. Louis in the broader area known to locals as North County. Fewer than half of the approximately 9,100 homes are owner-occupied, and about a quarter of residents live below the federal poverty level.

COMMERCE: Ferguson is home of the global headquarters of Emerson Electric Co., a Fortune 500 company that employs more than 130,000 workers worldwide. Just outside the city limits is Express Scripts, the nation's largest company that manages pharmacy benefits. Earlier this year, the corporation announced a $56 million expansion that will add 1,500 jobs. Ferguson's former rail depot is home to a redevelopment effort aimed at promoting small businesses in a pedestrian-friendly corridor, with a weekly farmers market and outdoor concerts in the summer.

SCHOOLS: Several North County school districts — including the Normandy system from which Brown recently graduated — lost state accreditation because of declining test scores and other academic shortcomings. Some students from the failing districts were bused to better-performing schools in other districts.

RACIAL CONCERNS: Some Ferguson protesters say members of the city's predominantly white police force disproportionately target black motorists during traffic stops. A 2013 report by the Missouri attorney general's office found that Ferguson police stopped and arrested black drivers nearly twice as frequently as white motorists but were also less likely to find contraband among the black drivers.