After days of protests and questions about what preceded the deadly police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, officials finally revealed on Friday morning (August 15) the identity of the officer who killed the teen on Saturday.
Police said six-year force veteran Darren Wilson was the man who shot Brown several times. Though police Chief Thomas Jackson did not answer any questions about Wilson, he did say that the officer did not have any disciplinary issues. Protesters who have gathered in Ferguson nightly since the shooting had been demanding to know the name of the officer involved, as well as details of the shooting and an explanation for why Brown’s body reportedly lay in the street for several hours after the incident.
But it was the other information officially revealed on Friday that added a dramatic new wrinkle to the story. According to Ferguson police, just before the shooting, Wilson responded to a call about a strong-arm robbery — one using physical force but not a weapon — at a nearby convenience store. The suspect was described as a “black male in a white T-shirt,” and a store employee said the man had taken a box of cigars (worth less than $50) and pushed the employee on his way out the door.
Store surveillance stills show a young man in a red Cardinals baseball cap, khaki shorts and a white T-shirt confronting a store clerk. The report also states that another black male was with the suspect.
Click here to view the documents released by police on Friday.
A follow-up report from Monday named Brown as the suspect in the robbery, along with his friend, Dorian Johnson, and says that Brown grabbed several boxes of Swisher Sweets cigars and when the employee tried to stop him, Brown grabbed the man’s shirt and “forcefully pushed him back into a display rack” before exiting the store with Johnson. There is no indication that Brown was armed during the incident, though the physical altercation with the clerk is what makes it a strong-arm robbery.
The second report continued, “It is worth noting that this incident is related to another incident … [in which] Brown was fatally wounded [by] an officer of this department.” The officer wrote that he responded to that scene of the shooting and saw Brown’s body and after reviewing the video, “I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in the incident.”
At press time, it was reported that Wilson is being held in a safe place.
The question for many in Ferguson remains why it took five days for police to release the information on the alleged robbery, while still not revealing the details of the shooting. Witnesses have said that there was an altercation between Brown and Wilson at Wilson’s police vehicle, with some saying shots were fired at that time, before Brown reportedly walked away with his hands up and was shot several times.
Reaction to both pieces of information was swift, with a number of people decrying what they said was the demonizing of shooting victim Brown.
— andré carrington PhD (@prof_carrington) August 15, 2014
WE KNOW MORE ABOUT THE DAMN ROBBERY THAN THE DAMN SHOOTING!!!!! COME ON MAN.
— EncycleauxpediaBrown (@SheSeauxSaditty) August 15, 2014
— Nafis White (@NafisMWhite) August 15, 2014
Johnson, the friend, has said in several interviews since the shooting that he and Brown were walking down the street minding their own business before police stopped them and, shortly after, shot the unarmed Brown in the back. Legal analyst Danny Cevallos told CNN on Friday that if Brown was in fact a suspect in that strong-arm robbery (defined as using violence or threatening to use violence to gain an objective) then police had probable cause to stop him on the street. And if he somehow resisted or appeared to be a threat to police, they were authorized to use force, even deadly force, to subdue him.
Following Thursday night’s nationwide vigils in support of Brown, protesters were once again in the streets of Ferguson on Friday after the name of the officer was revealed; at press time the gatherings were tense, but peaceful.