Questions Surround Recent Allegations from the Ferguson Police Department
Ferguson, Missouri – Early Friday Ferguson, St. Louis police Chief Thomas Jackson released the name of the officer involved in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, as well as documents alleging that Brown was involved in a “strong arm robbery” prior to the shooting. In the initial press conference, the media was led to believe that the officer who shot Brown recognized him as the robbery suspect. Hours later, in an afternoon press conference, the Chief clarified that the officer did not believe that Brown was a robbery suspect and was himself not aware of the robbery.
“The robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer (Darren Wilson) and Michael Brown,” Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson said at a Friday afternoon press conference. “The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery.”
Speaking at a press conference Friday morning, Chief Thomas Jackson identified officer Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown on August 9. Wilson is a six-year veteran with no prior history of violence, the department stated. He has been placed on administrative leave and relocated with his family in the interest of their safety.
Community members have been out in protest since Sunday night in response to the killing. Silent vigils became violent, leading to looting and rioting, which lead to a heavily militarized police presence. Several news outlets reported violence from the police, including the use of LRAD sound cannons, tear gas, and snipers. Peace was restored once the Missouri State Highway Patrol took command from the local police.
Chief Jackson shared documents related to an investigation into a robbery of a convenience store that took place the morning of August 9, before Brown was shot. The documents, along with still images, point to Brown possibly being involved in the theft of a $50 box of cigars.
According to the documents, officers suspected Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson, of stealing the cigars, and assaulting a clerk before leaving the store. The police reports say Brown and Johnson matched the description of the robbery suspects. Officers were called to the area to investigate. We now know that when Officer Wilson first encountered Brown, he knew nothing of the store robbery and confronted Brown because he and Johnson were reportedly walking in the middle of a street blocking traffic.
The police say either Brown or Johnson pushed the officer into his vehicle and attempted to grab the officers weapon. A shot was fired in the vehicle before the chaos spilled onto the streets. At this point the unarmed Brown was shot multiple times.
Dorian Johnson told news stations that he and Brown were walking down the street when a police officer pulled up behind then and said “Get the F*ck out of the street”, before grabbing Brown and trying to force him into the car. Johnson says a scuffle ensued and the officer shot Brown. He claims he hid behind a vehicle while Brown attempted to escape. Johnson says Brown was shot in the back, chest and face while he held his hands in the air and attempted to tell the officer he was unarmed.
The hacker collective Anonymous released audio of what they say is St. Louis County Police dispatch from August 9th, 2014. The audio reveals that the St. Louis County Police were getting information regarding an incident taking place in Ferguson from news reports, not from the Ferguson P.D. The Ferguson Police Department has yet to release it’s dispatch audio. Ferguson Police Chief Jackson says the departments 911 dispatch is still being processed.
11:28- “Be advised, this information came from the news”
11:54- “We’re just getting information from the news and we just called Ferguson back again and they don’t know anything about it”
43:54- “Attention all cars- be advised that in reference to the call 2947 Canfield Drive. We are switching over to the riot channel at this time”
The accusations directed at Brown and Johnson ultimately create more questions than answers. Dorian Johnson has been rather vocal in the media, speaking to several national outlets over the past week. If officers were already engaged in an investigation with Johnson as a suspect, why not arrest him or take him in for questioning? In fact, Dorian Johnson’s attorney Freeman Bosley told MSNBC that the police have declined to speak to Johnson.
Regardless of whether Brown was involved in the “strong arm robbery” or not, the question remains whether Wilson acted within the law when dealing with the situation. The foundation of the American Constitution and rule of law is that every man, woman, and child is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Michael Brown did not have that opportunity.
Also, despite the initial looting, the protesters have worked to bring awareness towards police violence in general. The repercussions of this most recent death by cop are also helping to spark a national conversation on the danger of militarizing the police.
Do you think suspicion in a robbery justifies the way Officer Wilson handled the situation?
Is the militarization of the police an issue you are concerned with?
Let us know in the comments below.