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

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.

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.


Holder releases guidelines for police/protestor relations (AUDIO)

The Justice Department has issued guidelines for police behavior during demonstrations. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community-oriented Policing have issued the guidelines in anticipation of more protests in Ferguson.

Holder says the “vast majority” of law enforcement officers have “honorably defended” citizens in peaceful protests. He says, “Demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation, and to bring about critical reform. But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence.”

Police, community leaders, even professional athletes in the St.Louis area are urging protestors who might take to the streets again this weekend to be peaceful in their actions.

Holder’s full statement:
AUDIO: Holder statement 3:54

“At the United States Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our local law enforcement partners have the resources they need to effectively serve and protect all members of their communities, particularly when citizens exercise their constitutionally protected rights. To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are providing new guidance to law enforcement officers about how to approach maintaining order during First Amendment-protected events. This comprehensive new guide compiles information, tools, and best practices that will help law enforcement officers maintain public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights.

“As we’ve seen, durable relationships between the police and their communities do not develop overnight. But as someone who has spent a career at all levels of law enforcement-and as the brother of a retired police officer-I know the importance of these outreach efforts to ensuring effective neighborhood policing, officer safety, and community health. The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation. It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms. This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times-particularly in moments of heightened community tension.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias, and pervasive community distrust. And in most cases, these demonstrations have been both meaningful and responsible, and have brought vital issues to the attention of the public at large. Similarly, the vast majority of law enforcement officers have honorably defended their fellow citizens engaged in these peaceful protests.

“I know, from first-hand experience, that demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation, and to bring about critical reform.

“But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence. And so I ask all those who seek to lend their voice to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter. Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change, from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise, to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice. Americans exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly should look to those examples as they work to bring about real and lasting change for themselves and for future generations.

“Of course, I recognize that progress will not come easily, and long-simmering tensions will not be cooled overnight. These struggles go to the heart of who we are, and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people-and it is clear that we have a great deal of important work to do. But as we move forward, the Department of Justice-and I personally-will continue to work with law enforcement and communities throughout the country to help build the more perfect Union-and the more just society-that all Americans deserve.”