FERGUSON, Missouri — Police revealed the identity Friday of the officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown, along with a report alleging that Brown and a friend stole cigars from a convenience store shortly before the shooting.According to the police report (embedded below), video surveillance allegedly showed Brown in an altercation with a store employee on Aug. 9. Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, grabbed cigars from the store and behind the counter, the police report said. Before they left the store, the employee attempted to stop Brown from taking the merchandise. Brown grabbed the employee by the shirt and pushed him into a display rack in the store, the report said, and Brown and Johnson left the store with the cigars.
But Darren Wilson, the officer who stopped Brown, wasn’t even aware that Brown was a suspect in the robbery, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Friday afternoon. The officer initially stopped Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, because the pair was walking in the middle of a residential street, Jackson said, an admission that provoked outrage from Brown’s family and attorneys.
“At a time when the highway patrol has been called in, when we got a calm that’s going on in the community, we’re finally reaching a point where things are settled down, [Jackson] is inciting the community all over again,” Anthony Gray, an attorney for the Brown family said Friday afternoon in a press conference reacting to Jackson’s revelation. They Brown family, he said, felt the timing of the video release was suspect and a strategic “character assassination attempt.”
Eric Davis, a cousin of Brown’s, called the police department’s changing story “smoke and mirrors,” and at one point knelt down tearfully in front of the podium, his hands in the air. “This is the universal sign for ‘I surrender,’” he said, before calling on the community to rise up in peaceful protest.
Hours later, Jackson appeared to change his story, telling NBC News that while the officer who shot Brown initially stopped him for walking in the street and blocking traffic, “at some point” during the encounter the officer saw cigars in Brown’s hands and thought he might be a suspect in the robbery.
Even before Jackson first admitted that the officer who stopped Brown did not know he was a suspect in an alleged robbery, Brown’s family and representing attorneys expressed anger over the police department’s decision to release only an account of the alleged robbery, and not details from the shooting.
“Michael Brown’s family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son,” his relatives said in a statement. “It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown, and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him.”
The report released Friday morning did not shed light on the details of Brown’s death.
In an interview with msnbc shortly after the report was released, Johnson’s lawyer confirmed that Brown had taken cigars from the store.
“We see that there’s tape, that they claim they got a tape that shows there was some sort of strong-armed robbery,” said Freeman Bosley, Johnson’s attorney. “We need to see that tape, my client did tell us and told the FBI that they went into the store. He told FBI that [Brown] did take cigarillos. He told that to the DOJ and the St. Louis County Police.”
In an interview earlier this week, Johnson described the events of the shooting but did not mention that he and Brown had been in a convenience store just before, or that Brown had stolen anything.
According to the police report released Friday morning, the officer who shot Brown was responding to a description provided by police dispatch searching for a suspect in the robbery nearby. Wilson, who is white, and has been on the police force for six years. He is currently on paid administrative leave. It’s unclear how Jackson’s comments Friday afternoon that the stop was unrelated to the alleged robbery square with the contents of a report police made public earlier in the day.
Johnson’s attorney, meanwhile, focused on the details the police department did not immediately reveal. “The [officer’s] name in and of itself doesn’t let us know a whole lot,” Bosley said. “The next step is: what do we know about the officer? We’d like to see his personnel file and if any disciplinary action has been taken against him, and how long he has been an officer.”
Jackson said Friday morning that no disciplinary action had been taken against Wilson. Brown was not believed to have a criminal record, either.
Residents of Ferguson had been demanding the release of the officer’s name and details about the shooting. Many questions remain unanswered regarding Brown’s death. Ferguson had been engulfed in tensions and aggressive police tactics toward the community in the wake of Brown’s killing, but the climate has cooled since President Obama and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urged calm Thursday.
“I’m pleased that the people of Ferguson and the region began to get some long-overdue information today, and I will continue to call for openness and transparency as the parallel investigations into this tragedy proceed to their necessary conclusions,” Nixon said Friday in a statement.
“For the sake of the family, the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire region, it is vital that the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown move forward in a thorough, open and transparent manner to ensure that trust is restored and justice is done,” he added. The Democratic governor previously faced criticism for his response to the police shooting.
Following a violent night of clashes between protesters and police on Wednesday, Nixon sought to return peace to the town of 20,000 by putting the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of security. Hundreds of demonstrators peacefully rallied Thursday on the streets in Ferguson, and Capt. Ron Johnson of the highway patrol confirmed there weren’t any arrests overnight.
“Last night was a great night. There were no calls for service. We did not deploy tear gas,” Johnson said during a early Friday afternoon news conference. He added that police didn’t set up road blocks as in previous nights.
Johnson told the crowd gathered in Ferguson that his mission in the suburb is to allow residents to protest and march freely, in the absence of armored officers.
“It’s time to stop saying, ‘This is an old wound,’ and close it for good,” Johnson said. He was expected to meet with Chief Jackson on Friday afternoon.
Obama on Thursday urged “calm” and “peace” on the streets of Ferguson in a brief statement during his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. He spoke out against the use of excessive force by law enforcement and violence toward police officers.The U.S. attorney’s office launched a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 18-year-old’s death. The FBI is also investigating. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, said Obama should declare martial law to federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest.
Harsh police tactics were on clear display in Ferguson earlier this week, following a request by authorities for residents to gather and pray peacefully only during daylight hours. Two reporters and a St. Louis elected official were among the individuals detained by officers on Wednesday night. A massive police force had descended on the area to demand protesters’ dispersal. At a press conference Thursday, police said demonstrators threw rocks, bricks, bottles and a Molotov cocktail at them.
Thousands of people gathered Thursday in more than 100 communities across the United States in remembrance of Brown, who would have completed his first week of college on Friday. The simultaneous national moment of silence took place at St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, New York’s Union Square, and the Boston Common, among other locations.