The facts are similar in many ways. Two teenagers, found to be unarmed, are shot and killed by a member of law enforcement in separate incidents. In both cases, the victim was shot at least six times. And, in both cases, the community responded with understandable outrage and calls for justice.
But from there the similarities between the shooting in Ferguson, Mo. and one in Sonoma County disappear.
In Sonoma County, the public responded with anger and grief — and non-violent protests. In Ferguson, the response has been anything but.
The violence and random acts of looting on the streets of this St. Louis suburb reached the point that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Saturday and set a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. But that appeared to do little to calm tensions.
After a night of accelerated clashes with protesters many of whom defied the curfew, the governor deployed the Missouri National Guard on Monday.
The latest outbreak of unrest appeared to be triggered by a preliminary private autopsy report that showed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, in his confrontation with a police officer on Aug. 9.
Locals can empathize with the residents of Ferguson given the similarities between this tragedy and the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was shot by a Sonoma County deputy on Oct. 22 while carrying an airsoft rifle that resembled a real weapon.
According to police and witnesses, Brown was killed while trying to flee after a struggle with the officer in and near a patrol car. Witnesses say Brown had his hands up and was returning toward the officer when he was shot repeatedly.
By all appearances the shooting in Ferguson, like the one in Sonoma County, was both tragic and avoidable.
But it’s no justification for vandalism and looting — or for violence, none of which will set things right or restore the life of a young man who was due to start college this week.
Ferguson authorities have certainly not helped matters with their ham-handed approach to this crisis. This included trying to muddy the facts in an apparent attempt to defend the officer’s actions, refusals to identify the officer involved and arresting journalists for, among other things, not moving quickly enough when ordered to stop doing their jobs.
And then there was the heavy show of force on the streets of Ferguson, which may have only escalated tensions.
Despite a similar demonstration of force during a large protest in Santa Rosa a week after the Lopez shooting, local authorities managed to avoid many of the mistakes made by their counterparts in Missouri. So did the public.
While the Lopez shooting is anything but settled here in Sonoma County, the community can take pride in its movement in a constructive direction, one that includes the addition of cameras on officers’ uniforms, possible changes in oversight of officer-involved shootings and more opportunities for community policing and community discourse.
Ferguson, meanwhile, appears only to be demonstrating the worst-case scenario that Sonoma County hoped to avoid and so far has.