Ferguson protester Edward Crawford, subject of iconic photo, found dead

Edward Crawford, a St. Louis resident who was the subject of an iconic photo epitomizing the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, is dead.

Crawford was photographed throwing a flaming tear gas canister in an image broadcast widely during the months of unrest that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr. by a police officer.

His death was confirmed to NBC News by the St. Louis Office of the Medical Examiner. Investigator Rose Psara said Crawford was pronounced deceased shortly before midnight on Thursday at 1435 Salisbury Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Related: Darren Seals, Ferguson Protest Leader, Found Fatally Shot in Burning Vehicle

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told NBC News that Crawford shot himself in the backseat of a car while it was moving, according to two witnesses who were seated in the front of the car.

"The victim began expressing he was distraught over personal matters to the witnesses," said the police department's Public Information Officer Leah Freeman. "The witnesses heard the victim rummaging in the backseat, then heard a gunshot and observed the victim had sustained a gunshot wound to the head."

Crawford was pronounced dead on the scene. Police said an investigation is ongoing and, while initially declared a suicide, the official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy.

Related: Federal Judge Dismisses Excessive Force Lawsuit Against Police During Ferguson Protests

According to his father, Edward Crawford Sr., the 27-year-old was the father of four young children, had just gotten a new apartment, and was training for a warehouse job.

"I don't believe it was a suicide," the senior Crawford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which first reported the death on Friday morning.

It's not the first time a notable Ferguson protester has died from gunfire.

In September 2016, the body of Ferguson activist Darren Seals was discovered inside a burning car. Seals had been shot, and police declared the death a homicide.

Related: Ferguson Security Video Renews Anger Over Michael Brown's Death

In November 2014 on the night a grand jury declined to convict the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Brown, 20-year-old Deandre Joshua was found shot in the head with severe burns after being lit on fire. Like Seals, Joshua was discovered dead in his own car.

NBC News sent several requests for comment about the death of Edward Crawford to the St. Louis Police Department but did not receive a response.

It is unclear where Crawford's body was found.

On social media, notable leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement and the St. Louis community mourned Crawford's death.

Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said that Crawford was a local hero after he famously picked up the tear gas canister and threw it out of the way of protesters.

In the photograph, which won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2015, Crawford appeared to be throwing the canister back at police while wearing a shirt emblazoned with an American flag. The photo came to symbolize anger at police killings of unarmed black youth.

He was later charged for assault and for interfering with a police officer in relation to the tear gas incident.

Crawford posted a photo on his Twitter profile in September 2015 showing him posing next to his iconic image at the offices of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But Crawford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015 that he was trying to protect people from the tear gas. and that police were 30 or 40 yards away: ""I can't even throw a baseball that far, let alone a burning can of tear gas."

"I didn't throw a burning can back at police," said Crawford. "I threw it out of the way of children."

See photos of Ferguson:

Most iconic photos of Black Lives Matter movement since Ferguson
See Gallery
Most iconic photos of Black Lives Matter movement since Ferguson
FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 17: Tear gas rains down on a woman kneeling in the street with her hands in the air after a demonstration over the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 17, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Despite the Brown family's continued call for peaceful demonstrations, violent protests have erupted nearly every night in Ferguson since his August 9, death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 11: Police force protestors from the business district into nearby neighborhoods on August 11, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets as residents and their supporters protested the shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown who was killed Saturday in this suburban St. Louis community. Yesterday 32 arrests were made after protests turned into rioting and looting in Ferguson. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 12: A demonstrator protesting the killings of 18-year-olds Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri Police officer and Vonderrit Myers Jr. by an off duty St. Louis police officer gets help after being maced by police on October 12, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area has been struggling to heal since riots erupted in suburban Ferguson following Brown's death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 3: A demonstrator cries while gathering in Philadelphia to protest the Eric Garner grand jury decision during a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at City Hall December 3, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Organizers called for the demonstration after a grand jury in the Staten Island borough of New York City declined to indict the police officer who used a chokehold on Garner, resulting in his death. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: Police confront demonstrators during a protest on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Yesterday protesting turned into rioting following the grand jury announcement to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - DECEMBER 20: Thousands of protesters from the group 'Black Lives Matter' disrupt holiday shoppers on December 20, 2014 at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
A police officer stands over activists, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, as they stage a 'die-in' during rush hour at Grand Central Terminal in the Manhattan borough of New York on December 3, 2014. A New York City grand jury on Wednesday returned no indictment against a white police officer who used a chokehold on an unarmed black man who died as police tried to arrest him for illegally selling cigarettes, local media reported. The grand jury in the city's borough of Staten Island decided against criminal charges for New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. The deadly encounter on July 17 was captured on a video that quickly spread over the Internet and helped fuel debates about how U.S. police use force, particularly against minorities. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TRANSPORT)
A man protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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