7’s Top 7: 2015 Race Relations Stories

Racial tensions in the U.S. continued to escalate this year, unfortunately picking up where 2014 left off. 7’s Craig Stevens takes a look back.

In 2014, the names Michael Brown and Eric Garner became synonymous with a growing divide between some in the African-American community and law enforcement. 

Protesters: "I can’t breathe!"

Protesters: "Hands up! Don’t shoot!"

In 2015, the faces and cities changed, but deep distrust remained.

We begin where the tension touched off: Ferguson, Missouri. In March, the city again erupted in violence.

Two police officers were shot and wounded during a protest after the U.S. Justice Department decided not to file charges against former Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of the unarmed teenager.

Then, the following month, a new battle in Baltimore. Violent protests erupted after Freddie Gray died while in police custody.

The 25-year-old suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in the back of his transport van. Cellphone video captured during the arrest shows Gray screaming as he was taken to the van.

In the days after his death, thousands took to the streets. Businesses were looted and buildings set on fire.

Six officers involved in the arrest were later charged. The first officer on trial ended with a hung jury.

A white South Carolina police officer was charged with the murder of Walter Scott after video showed him shooting the unarmed 50-year-old in the back as he ran away.

Anthony Scott, victim’s brother: "I don’t want to see anyone get shot down the way that my brother got shot down."

A white Chicago officer charged with murder more than a year after he allegedly shot and killed Laquan McDonald has pleaded not guilty. Disturbing dash camera video shows the black teenager being shot 16 times as he walked with a small knife. The next hearing is set for January.

The debate over racial profiling by police came to South Florida in October. Corey Jones was shot and killed by Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja.

Clinton Jones Sr.: "Corey is gone. Cory is dead, so today I need some answers. I need to know why. Why is my son gone today? Why?"

The 31-year-old church drummer was gunned down on the side of Interstate 95 as he waited for a tow truck. No criminal charges have been filed, but Raja was fired.

In Charleston, S.C., police say 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire inside a historic black church during bible study – murdering nine people – including the pastor.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: "We woke up today, and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken."

Roof reportedly said he was there to shoot black people. Pictures of him with the Confederate flag touched off a fierce debate about a symbol of the Old South many view as racist.

Protesters: "Take it down! Take it down!"

It also renewed a call to stop flying the flag on South Carolina State Capitol grounds.

South Carolina Rep. Jenny Horne: "I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday."

In the end, lawmakers voted to take it down. As 2015 draws to a close, issues of race and policing promise to be at the forefront again in 2016. As movements like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter compete to be heard, the only thing certain is that racial matters remain.

Thursday night, we’ll look back at the top story of the year: the rise of ISIS. In the Newsplex, I’m Craig Stevens, 7News.