What the Michael Brown shooting looked like to an eyewitness on Twitter

What do you do when the world explodes on the street where you live?

 

Aja Romano

Internet Culture

Published Aug 16, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 6:29 pm CDT

What do you do when the world explodes on the street where you live?

For one bystander in Ferguson who reportedly saw Michael Brown shot before his eyes, the answer is: Keep tweeting.

Twitter user TheePharoah is a St. Louis rapper living in Ferguson. He is located in the literal epicenter of the Ferguson protests—so close that he was an eyewitness to the shooting of Michael Brown. 

#Ferguson pic.twitter.com/8wOorRIIKB

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 13, 2014

@D_Edz yep. Right in the midst of it.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 14, 2014

On Aug. 9, TheePharoah was at home in his apartment when he witnessed the Brown shooting happening right in front of his building. He took to Twitter to give his real-time impression of what he’d just seen.

I JUST SAW SOMEONE DIE OMFG

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Im about to hyperventilate

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

@allovevie the police just shot someone dead in front of my crib yo

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

At that point, TheePharoah tweeted a photo, apparently taken from his window, of Brown’s body lying in the street, a Ferguson police officer standing over it. (Warning: The photo is graphic.) 

@_amourlace no reason! He was running!

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Its blood all over the street, niggas protesting nshit. There is police tape all over my building. I am stuck in here omg

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Bruh. Im so upset

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

When bystanders asked him for details, TheePharoah gave his account of the shooting.

@SLIKK_DARKO yeah man. 7 times i think

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

@SLIKK_DARKO the first two was, the next 5 werent, he turned around

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

The first two was clear, then it was a barage of them shits

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Stuck in his apartment behind police tape for the four hours that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street, TheePharoah kept tweeting.

@TheePharoah ain’t you supposed to be at work?

— A♭ (@AlexDon314) August 9, 2014

@AlexDon314 no access to a phone man smh

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

@DomoTheTruth he looked like 18 or 19. His parents out here tripping now

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Nigga got an AR pic.twitter.com/4KnaqMPO3a

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

@SLIKK_DARKO bruh, the news hella not here. Everybody trying to get them here tho

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

As tensions rose, he kept piping updates to Twitter.

@DeadestPoet hella out here pic.twitter.com/vtKig1NKQY

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

Homie still on the ground tho

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

The full timeline of TheePharoah’s account of the shooting depicts a shaken bystander trying to process what he’s just seen. But over the following week, his eyes and ears would be an important part of the public record about what was really happening in Ferguson, as the police response against the protests escalated.

K. RT @ABC After cops kill a man at a MO apartment complex; angry protesters shout “Kill the police,” https://t.co/1bZEEatQye

— Alexis (@MusicOverPeople) August 10, 2014

@FilthyAnimal__ nope, just a lot if protesters.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

@FeministaJones @ImCandiceTho @NBCNews please stop these false remarks. The chants were “no justice no peace”, & “black power”. I was there.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

Definitely was tear gas and gunshots on west florissant.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 16, 2014

TheePharoah’s Twitter timeline records more than just the events happening on the streets of Ferguson. It’s also a document of a man having his eyes opened.

At first, TheePharoah’s main concern after his shock was wondering how the incident would affect his job.

@trbrowwn i gotta go to work in the morning lol

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

But over the next few days, after seeing what was happening around him, that steadily changed.

My dad a black activist, so he pissed

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014

@AlexDon314 i might personally know who you talking about. I know a girl who got her phone confiscated.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

Im about to have to speak out.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

I feel like i’ve been put in a position to.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 10, 2014

So did his desire for caution and calm.

My M.O. has always been positivity and OPTIMISM so lets stay positive for Mike Brown’s justice. #Ferguson

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 13, 2014

I admit my ignorance before, keep tweeting letting everyone know cops cant do what they want and get away with it!

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 14, 2014

In 5 days, I’ve seen more instances of police brutality than i have in the entirety of my life. #Ferguson

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 14, 2014

My life changed.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 16, 2014

Cant sleep. My mind in too many places..

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 16, 2014

My dad told me i would have to step up one day.. just never knew it would be at 19.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 16, 2014

Through it all he spoke of the important of the on-the-street reporting he and his fellow citizens in Ferguson were doing, and urged others to keep tweeting.

@BiancaChene2 do you understand that us tweeting is the reason #Ferguson is broadcasted? We’re the media. The voice of the people.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 14, 2014

He also kept tweeting pictures from yesterday’s peace rally—which took place, as did the shooting, right before his eyes.

THE WHOLE MOVEMENT IN MY FRONT YARD! #FERGUSON

Shoutout to everyone who cares for me and EVERYONE else out reporting on whats going on in ferguson. Yall made this unity possible.

— Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 16, 2014

As the world turned its eyes to the citizen journalism of Twitter users like Antonio French during the protests, few people initially noticed TheePharoah’s timeline.

But while it doesn’t approach the tragedy of Brown’s death, TheePharoah’s timeline is an important glimpse into the way violence impacts everyone in a community—whether they’re watching it unfold on Twitter, or right outside their door.

Photo by theepharoah/Twitter

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*First Published: Aug 16, 2014, 12:59 pm CDT