November 27, 2014

AG Holder wants to look at something else in Ferguson

Those whose had been hoping for a grand jury indictment in the Michael Brown case now pin their hopes on the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s department is running two investigations. One looking into civil rights issues connected to the killing of Michael Brown Junior. The other looks at operations of the Ferguson Police Department. But the violence in the new round of Ferguson riots has him opening a third front.

Holder has asked the Community-Oriented Policing Services office to do an afater-action review that will develop a strategy to identify and isolate criminal elements from peaceful protestors.

He says the assessment is important because Ferguson’s problems are not unique. “There are other communities around the country that have these same issues that have to be dealt with,” he says, “and we at the Justice Department are determined to do all that we can to bridge these divides.”

Holder has given no timetable for completion of the Michael Brown Junior case. He says he and the St. Louis County prosecutor have been sharing information during the grand jury inquiry.

AUDIO: Holder update 6:20

Brown family, Sharpton, hope for better results from feds (AUDIO)

The attorney for the Michael Brown family says the family is hoping a United States Justice Department investigation produces the indictment they couldn’t get in St. Louis County. And civil rights activist Al Sharpton has told an audience in Ferguson that the federal investigation might bring better results than the county grand jury because “It has been the legacy of the civil rights movement that you always had to go to the federal government and could not depend on states.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton makes his remarks as Michael Brown Sr. (hat) and Brown family attorneys listen in during a press conference in Ferguson, Missouri on November 25, 2014. After the verdict was read in the Michael Brown Jr. shooting case looting, riots and fires broke out in the area on November 24, 2014.   UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Rev. Al Sharpton makes his remarks as Michael Brown Sr. (hat) and Brown family attorneys listen in during a press conference in Ferguson, Missouri on November 25, 2014. After the verdict was read in the Michael Brown Jr. shooting case looting, riots and fires broke out in the area on November 24, 2014. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch says the grand jury had not issued any indictments against officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Junior.

Brown Family lawyer Benjamin Crump recall the family objected to the county prosecutor running the case through a grand jury from the start. And he says McCulloch’s questioning of officer Darren Wilson proves the point:  “He testified for four hours and you had to scratch your head…to say ‘when is the prosecutor going to cross-examine the killer of an unarmed person.’ A first year law student would have did [sic] a better job of cross-examining the killer of an unarmed person than the prosecutor’s office did.”

Crump says the family and its supporters hope Congress passes a Michael Brown Law that would require every police officer, nationwide to wear a video body camera so “we won’t have to play this game of witnesses memories and secret grand jury proceedings. It would just be transparent.”

Sharpton calls Brown’s death part of a national movement, saying the goal is greater accountability in policing. “Michael Brown will not be remembered for the ashes from the buildings burned in Ferguson. He will be remembered for new legislation and the upholding of laws that protect citizens in the country,” Sharpton said.

Although Brown’s father had been billed as a speaker at the news conference, Crump has described him as too emotional to answer questions.

AUDIO: Crump & Sharpton speak 35:33

Violence worse than expected, say Ferguson officials

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he is “heartbroken” about the riots in Ferguson overnight after the release of the St. Louis County Grand Jury report that did not indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson.

Captain John Belmar

St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar

A department report says 67 people were arrested during riots and demonstrations last night. Only eight did not live in the St. Louis/St. Louis County area.  Most of those eight have addresses in the Metro East area. Only one was from as far away as Chicago.

Belmar refers to Ferguson as “a very dangerous environment,” and says, “Unless we bring 10,000 policemen in here, I don’t think we can prevent folks that really are itent on just destroying a community,” he says.

Twenty-nine of those arrested are accused of burglary. Ten are accused of receiving stolen property.  Seven are facing charges of unlawful assembly and seven more are suspected of trespassing.

Belmar says a dozen businesses and at least two police cars have been burned. Although he says he heard about 150 gunshots, he has heard no reports of anybody being shot. A 74-year old man who became a carjacking victim during the disturbances was badly injured when the carjackers ran over his legs.

Governor Nixon is calling more National Guard members to duty in the region.

Attorney: Darren Wilson to comment in “appropriate venue”

Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson remains in seclusion but his lawyers have reacted to the grand jury decision not charge him in the Michael Brown shooting.

Darren Wilson exam photo cropLawyers say the past few days have been “tense” for Wilson. They say any further comment about his future will be made in what is called in an “appropriate venue” and not through the media, a comment perhaps based on reports that have surfaced in the last few days that Wilson has been in secret negotiations with the leading anchors of major network newscasts and cable news channels.

The lawyers say Wilson “followed his training and followed the law” in that August 9th encounter with Michael Brown. They say police officers often have to make “split-second and difficult decisions” of the kind Wilson made.

Lawyer Neil Bruntrager tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch there’s no reason Wilson should be fired from the Ferguson department but it is appropriate for the department to decide if his shooting of Brown was within department policies. The Ferguson police chief is not commenting.

United States Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department’s investigation has been independent of the St. Louis County grand jury’s work and is ongoing. He says the department is continuing to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson department .

The aftermath of the grand jury decision also brings news that Wilson got married a month ago to a veteran Ferguson policewoman.  She has gone on sick leave because of job stress.

STL police union leader forsees violence

A spokesman for more than 1100 St. Louis metro police officers fears violence–at several levels–when the Michael Brown grand jury files its report, no matter what the report says.

Executive Director Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association says Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson is not the only area officer to get death threats since the Michael Brown shooting, and that includes him. But he says every police officer hopes people will respect the justice system and give it time to work.

Roorda says he’s “disturbed” by the idea that Ferguson police who were trying to protect life and property in August somehow provoked demonstrators to violence. And he worries about what’s coming. “Those protestors responded with violence for two weeks…The response of the crowd was to their own emotions and to their own goals, not to the police.”

He has told CNN the media has under-reported there were efforts to kill and injure police officers every night for the two weeks after the Brown shooting. He expects more of the same after the grand jury report comes out.