Almost a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, the police department identified the officer involved as six-year veteran Darren Wilson. At a press conference at 9 a.m. this morning, police chief Tom Jackson said Wilson, who has no disciplinary history, was responding to a robbery at a nearby convenience store when he encountered the teenager. The police also released video stills that appeared to show Brown threatening the convenience store owner, and a detailed report on the incident. Citizens attending the press conference immediately erupted in anger at the perceived insinuation that Brown may have been a suspect in the robbery. Jackson did not stick around to answer questions. USA Today reports that Wilson and his family skipped town “days ago.”
Later, Jackson held another press conference around 3 p.m. Eastern time and provided further information about the shooting. In a statement, he said that the officer who stopped Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, did not know Brown was a robbery suspect–raising the question of why police released detailed information on the robbery this morning. Instead, Brown was stopped for “walking down the street blocking traffic, that’s it,” said Jackson. The shooting occurred between 12:01 p.m., when Wilson encountered Brown, and 12:04 p.m., when a second officer arrived on the scene and found Brown dead.
When asked why the police department released the video, Jackson said “because the press asked for it,” adding that he decided to do so in response to a barrage of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. When asked about Wilson, Jackson called him “a gentleman” and “a quiet officer,” adding that Wilson “never meant for this to happen.”
Around 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, Michael Brown’s family and attorney, Benjamin Crump, held a press conference. Crump said that the man in the robbery video “appears to be” Brown. He also said that the police department’s decision to release information on the robbery seemed “strategic.”
“It’s a diversion from the conduct of the officer,” he said.
The information packet handed out to press on the convenience store incident explains that Brown shoplifted a box of Swisher Sweets. Dorian Johnson’s lawyer told MSNBC that his client, who was friends with Brown and a witness to the shooting, told the Department of Justice and St. Louis Police that Brown had stolen cigars from the store.
Just prior to noon on Saturday, August 9, surveillance footage shows a man police believe to be Brown as he “abruptly turns back around and advances on [redacted]. Brown towers over [redacted] appearing to intimidate him. Brown then turns back around and walks out of camera view”:
The Ferguson Police Department is still responsible for conducting the investigation into the shooting, despite the fact that the Missouri State Highway Patrol was brought in yesterday to control security at protests. Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson was not aware the police department would be releasing information about the robbery today.
“I would have liked to have been consulted,” Johnson said at a press conference earlier this morning.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon also expressed concerns about the information released today, acknowledging that it doesn’t paint a full picture, according to the Washington Post.
“I think the focal point here remains to figure out how and why Michael Brown was killed and to get justice,” Nixon said.
Charlie Dooley, the County Executive of St. Louis County, is attempting to appoint a special prosecutor to handle Brown’s case, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. In order to have Prosecutor Bob McCulloch taken off the case, Dooley will have to “obtain signatures and petition a judge for the removal.”
Meanwhile, the Ethical Society of Police, a nonprofit that represents African-American police officers, issued a statement on Facebook saying that their president — also named Darren Wilson — is not the officer involved in the shooting. Some reporters speculated earlier this morning that Wilson was the officer named in this St. Louis Post Dispatch story about a racist letter received by a black member of the St. Louis police department.
This post has been updated throughout.