November 28, 2014

Law enforcement: last night better than Monday night in Ferguson

Police say violence on the second night in the St. Louis region since Monday’s grand jury decision has not been as intense as that on the first.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (left) and St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (left) and St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar

St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar says that’s been due in part to the increased National Guard presence from Monday night to Tuesday night. 700 National Guard soldiers had been deployed to Ferguson on Monday and that number was more than tripled, to 2,200, last night.

Belmar says with the Guard there in a support role, more police officers and highway patrol troopers could deal with the demonstrators that turned violent.

“Generally I think it’s fair to say the officers acted with an incredible amount of bearing and discipline tonight,” Belmar told the media in a briefing early this morning. “We saw some protesters out there that were really out there for the right reason. Unfortunately there seems to be a few people that are bent on, I think, preventing this from happening the most ideal way that it possibly could.”

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson also credited some demonstrators.

“A lot of the protesters that came out for peaceful protests actually were assisting us,” Johnson said.

St. Louis County Police say 44 people were arrested Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. At least one of those was related to a weapon and another, to assaults on police. Two guns and one Molotov cocktail were also seized and one police car was burned last night.

Windows were also broken at some locations, including the Ferguson City Hall.

“That happens also to be the only place we deployed tear gas this evening,” said Belmar.

Violent protests and looting, as well as some peaceful protests, have happened since August 9 when 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. They increased in scope and intensity after the announcement Monday night that a St. Louis County grand jury would not indict Wilson for that shooting.

Michael Brown’s parents reject Darren Wilson account of shooting

The parents of Michael Brown have said they don’t believe the account of their son’s death given by the police officer that shot him.

Michael Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Senior, spoke on CBS's This Morning about their reaction to officer Darren Wilson's account of his fatal shooting of their son on August 9.

Michael Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Senior, spoke on CBS’s This Morning about their reaction to officer Darren Wilson’s account of his fatal shooting of their son on August 9.

Darren Wilson gave an exclusive interview to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in which he said Brown was aggressive toward him, had punched him and was charging at him when he fatally shot the teenager. On CBS’ This Morning, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, rejected that.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” McSpadden said. “I know my son far too well to … he would never do anything like that. He would never provoke anyone to do anything to him and he wouldn’t do anything to anybody.”

Wilson said he acted as he was trained and was fearful for his survival when he shot Brown.

McSpadden said she doesn’t believe that, either.

“He didn’t do what he had to do, he did what he wanted to do,” she said. “I don’t think he wanted to kill my son but he wanted to kill someone.”

Brown’s parents said they have pleaded for peace and can’t be held accountable for the violence that has followed their son’s death and the decision not to indict Wilson.  They blame Governor Jay Nixon for that violence.

“I think that Nixon put it out there and infuriated those people,” she said. “On August 9 [the day Brown was shot] voice were heard about, if there weren’t an indictment, how they would react, how they would lash out, what they would do.”

They remain critical that a special prosecutor did not replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch on the case.

Darren Wilson talks about Michael Brown shooting to ABC

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson has given his first media interview since he fatally shot Michael Brown nearly four months ago.

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson

In the exclusive interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Wilson talked about what happened after, he said, he asked Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson to move out of the middle of Canfield Drive, August 9.  The first segment of that interview has aired on ABC’s World News Tonight.

“I had gone to open the door and get out of the car and when I did so, as I opened the door I said, ‘Hey, come here for a minute,'” Wilson said. “That’s when [Brown] turned and said, ‘What the [expletive] are you going to do about it?’ and slammed my door shut on me.”

Wilson says he attempted to push Brown back with the door and Brown pushed it shut again, “and as I looked back at him, all of a sudden, punches start flying.”

Asked by Stephanopoulos to confirm whether he said Brown threw the first punch, Wilson says, “Yes.”

Wilson said Brown punched him on the side of the face, and said after that he was fearful for his survival. He said it was after that he pulled his gun and pointed it at Brown, and told him to get back or Wilson would shoot him.

“His response, immediately, he grabbed the top of my gun, and when he grabbed it he said, ‘You’re too much of a [expletive] to shoot me,’ and while he’s doing that I can feel his hand trying to come over my hand and get inside the trigger guard, and try and shoot me with my own gun. That’s when I pulled the trigger for the first time,” said Wilson.

He said the gun didn’t go off and was being jammed by Brown’s hand on top of it. He said he pulled the trigger a second time, “and again another click, and this time I’m like, ‘This has to work otherwise I’m going to be dead. He’s going to get this gun away from me, something’s going to happen and I’m going to be dead, so I pull a third time and it finally goes off.”

Wilson said after that Brown became angrier, and Wilson raised his gun and fired another shot.

He said he called for help and then gave chase to Brown, who he said stopped running and turned to face Wilson.

“As he does that his right hand immediately does to his waistband and his left hand is a fist at his side, and he starts charging me,” Wilson said, saying that made him question whether Brown had a weapon in his waistband.

Stephanopoulos tells Wilson, “As you know, some of the eyewitnesses have said when, at that moment he turned around, he turned around and put his hands up.”

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

“That would be uncorrect. Incorrect,” Wilson told the reporter.

Wilson said Brown then began to run toward him.

“At that time I gave myself another mental check, ‘Can I shoot this guy? Legally, can I?'” Brown said. “The question I answered myself was, ‘I have to. If I don’t, he will kill me if he gets to me.”

“Even though he’s what, 35, 40 feet away?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Once he’s coming that direction, if he hasn’t stopped yet, when’s he going to stop?” Wilson asked in reply.

The officer continued, “After he’s coming at me and I decided to shoot I fired a series of shots and paused.” Wilson said Brown flinched, and he judged at least one of the rounds had hit him.

“After that I paused and I again yell, ‘Stop, get on the ground,’ giving him the opportunity to stop, and he ignored all the commands and he just kept running, and so after he kept running again I shot another series of shots, and at least one of those hit him because I saw the flinch.”

Wilson said Brown was about 15 feet from him and still coming, so the officer began backpedaling.

“He gets to about eight to ten feet and as he does that he kind of starts to lean forward like he’s going to tackle me, and I look down the barrel of my gun and I fired, and what I saw was his head and that’s where it went.”

“Right in the top of his head,” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Yes,” Wilson replied.

Stephanopoulos asked Wilson if he is absolutely convinced that if Michael Brown had been white, that the encounter would have played out the same way.

“Yes,” says Wilson. “No question.”

Wilson told Stephanopoulos he is sorry for the loss of life but would not do anything differently.

“You have a very clean conscience,” Stephanopoulos observed during the interview.

Wilson replied, “The reason I have a clean conscience, ’cause I know I did my job right.”

Wilson is still on paid administrative leave from the Ferguson Police Department.

ABC will air more segments from the hour-and-a-half long interview in future broadcasts.

US Attorney General statement after Ferguson grand jury decision

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a statement following the announcement of the St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the 6th annual Washington Ideas Forum.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

“While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing. Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now. Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.

“Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy. This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve. While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust. The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence. Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting. In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays-and uses-of force.”


Grand Jury: no indictment of officer in Michael Brown shooting

A St. Louis County Grand Jury has not indicted Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury¹s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death on Michael Brown on November 24, 2014, at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri.     UPI/POOL

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury¹s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death on Michael Brown on November 24, 2014, at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri. UPI/POOL

The grand jury’s decision was read by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch tonight in St. Louis. He assured the media that there was, “a full investigation and presentation of all evidence and appropriate instruction of law to the grand jury.”

“They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against officer Wilson, and returned a no-true bill on each of the five indictments,” said McCulloch.

Brown was fatally shot after an encounter with Wilson in Ferguson’s Canfield Green apartment complex. Some eyewitness accounts said Brown was shot as he was charging at the officer, others that he was shot with his hands up.

McCulloch said in reading the grand jury’s decision that accounts of what happened were not consistent.

“Some described his hands as being out to his side, some said in front of him with his palms up. Others said his hands were raised near his head or by his shoulders. Still others said they were in front of his chest or down by his stomach.” McCulloch said.

He also acknowledged that three different autopsies had been conducted on Brown’s body. Among the findings, he noted that Brown sustained 7 or 8 gunshot wounds, depending on whether one of the shots was an entry or reentry wound.

“The top of the head, forehead, and perhaps the upper-right chest were consistent with his body being bent forward at the waist,” McCulloch said. A graze wound to his thumb was sustained at Wilson’s patrol vehicle. It was the first wound and was the only one sustained at close-range. The shot to the top of his head is believed to have been sustained last.

McCulloch says he cannot, under state law, reveal the vote or opinions expressed by members of the grand jury. He said it met 25 separate times between August 20 and today, and deliberated for more than two days before arriving at its decision.

“It is important to note here,” said McCulloch, “that they are the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence.”

He opened by extending his “deepest sympathies” to the family of Michael Brown and called the time since Brown’s death “extremely tense and painful.”

“No young man should ever die. This is the loss of a life and its a tragic loss regardless of the circumstances, but it’s opened old wounds and it’s given us an opportunity now to address those wounds, as opposed to in the past where they just fade away,” said McCulloch. “For how many years have we been talking about the issues that lead to incidents like this and yet after a period of time it just sort of fades away? I urge everybody who’s engaged in the conversation, who’s engaged in the demonstrations to keep that going, to stay with that; not to let that go.”