The unrest that erupted after a white police officer shot an unarmed black 18-year-old in suburban St. Louis was the top story of 2014, according to a survey of Associated Press reporters and editors.
In the days after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, tense and sometimes violent protests popped up in and around Ferguson, a predominantly black community patrolled by a mostly white police force. Officer Darren Wilson, who subsequently resigned from the Ferguson department, fatally shot Brown after the two scuffled inside Wilson’s police SUV. Brown’s body was left for more than four hours as police investigated and angry onlookers gathered.
Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. Wilson told the grand jury that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun. When prosecutors announced Nov. 24 that a grand jury declined to indict Wilson – the St. Louis suburb of 20,000 residents was ravaged by looting and violence.
The state’s second biggest story of the year came in November when a state judge overturned Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage in a ruling that immediately set off a rush among some same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses.
In the No. 3 story, Missouri executed ten inmates, even as questions swirled about the lethal and increasingly difficult-to-obtain drug that was used. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster proposed establishing a lab where the state can make its own execution drugs.
The rest of the top 10:
No. 4 – The Kansas City Royals went on a post-season winning streak that took them to their first World Series since 1985 but fell to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7.
No. 5 – Voters in November elected Republicans to large legislative majorities, meaning they will more easily be able to override any vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
No. 6– Missouri lawmakers enacted one of the nation’s longest waiting periods for abortions in September, overriding a veto of legislation that will require women to wait 72 hours after consulting with a doctor before ending a pregnancy.
No. 7– Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature enacted the state’s first income tax rate reduction in almost a century in May by overriding the veto of Nixon, who has denounced it as a reckless financial experiment.
No. 8 – Missouri lawmakers in September expanded the potential for teachers to bring guns to schools and for residents to openly carry firearms. The new law allows specially trained school employees to carry concealed guns on campuses. It also allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry guns openly, even in cities or towns with bans against the open carrying of firearms. The approval came after voters in August passed a state constitutional amendment strengthening the right to own firearms, although a lawsuit has been filed over it.
No. 9– A special prosecutor in July dismissed a first-degree murder charge against a northwest Missouri man facing a third trial in his neighbor’s 1990 death – the latest and likely final legal victory in a nearly quarter-century effort to clear his name. Former Clay County prosecutor Don Norris determined that there was insufficient probable cause in the criminal case against Mark Woodworth, who was 16 when Cathy Robertson was shot and killed in her bed in the rural community of Chillicothe.
No. 10– A Southwest Airlines flight carrying 124 passengers mistakenly landed in January at the wrong Missouri airport. Southwest Flight 4013 was traveling from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Branson Airport but instead landed at tiny Taney County Airport seven miles away. No one was hurt, but the airliner came dangerously close to the end of the runway, where it could have tumbled down a steep embankment if it had left the pavement.
Other stories drawing attention during 2014:
– PRAYER GROUP KILLING: Two years after the lifeless body of a young suburban Kansas City woman was found inside a locked minivan near a lake, prosecutors in October dropped a first-degree murder charge against the man who told police he had killed her. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Friday that many of the claims Micah Moore made in his confession were unreliable and not supported by the investigation.
– KANSAS CITY SHOOTINGS: A convicted felon with a violent past was charged with fatally beat an elderly couple in September in their home in a quiet south Kansas City neighborhood and fatally shot three of their neighbors.
– CHILD ABDUCTED: A middle-school football coach was charged in February with first-degree murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl who was snatched off a street near her southwest Missouri home as several residents watched in horror.
– STOWERS DIES: Jim Stowers Jr., the billionaire founder of one of the nation’s leading investment management firms who gave away most of his fortune to fight disease, died in March at the age of 90.
– MINE WORKERS KILLED: Two workers fell to their deaths in April inside a southeast Missouri mine that has been the site of two other fatal accidents since 2000.
– MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: A Missouri drill sergeant was convicted in September of sexually assaulting and harassing several female soldiers. Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez was accused of using his supervisory position with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood to isolate his victims and win their trust with favors.
– PRIEST SEXUAL ASSAULT SETTLEMENTS: Two large priest sexual assault settlements were reached with the Archdioceses of St. Louis and Kansas City. The St. Louis settlement in a suit against defrocked Catholic priest Joseph Ross was for an undisclosed amount of money. The Kansas City settlement was for nearly $10 million and covers the case of a former altar boy and 29 others alleging sexual abuse by priests.
– SEXUAL MISCONDUCT-UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: The University of Missouri came under fire for how it investigates sexual discrimination, assault and harassment. Former running back Derrick Washington in 2011 was sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a former athletic department tutor. This year, two more former MU students went public with assault allegations against Washington. And an independent report released in April found that MU failed to follow parts of the federal law that governs sexual harassment on campus when handling the case of a former swimmer’s suicide.
– CHASE-GIRL KILLED: An eastern Kansas man was charged in July with first-degree murder and other felonies after an alleged abduction and police chase ended in the death of a 5-year-old girl from a gunshot wound.
– DAUGHTER SLAYING-INMATE DIES: A Missouri woman died in prison in April while serving a life sentence for the 1989 slaying of her teenage daughter in a crime that was chillingly captured on an FBI surveillance tape and apparently prompted by the girl’s resistance to the family’s Islamic traditions.