November 26, 2014

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.

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.”


Ferguson protest leader: There are plans in place for people who exploit our movement


Sites identified for protest by organizers in Ferguson.

A policeman’s fatal shooting of a black teenager 115 days ago made a St. Louis suburb a national epicenter of racial hostility, law enforcement frustration, outsider agitation — and yes, peaceful protest.

And now all involved are bracing for the aftershock: a decision from a grand jury’s closed-door investigation of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s actions on August 9 when he shot and killed Michael Brown.

For protest organizers who have been on the ground since August 10, there will be a coordinated response, whatever the decision.

DeRay McKesson, an online organizer, has issued a “No indictment” planning site, including a recruiting page for “all lawyers, legal workers and law students of conscience in anticipation of a major reaction to the (non or under) indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.”


McKesson’s Twitter photo

McKesson, who has managed a centralized communication site and social media in the past 115 days of demonstrations, “die-ins,” and a campus rally at St. Louis University, insists that most of their activities have been peaceful.

“There is a community that has been formed in the past 100-plus days that knows how to manage itself, ” he told Missourinet. “I believe in that community to maintain peace whether we are celebrating or protesting in frustration.”

McKesson says he is worried about the law enforcement response.

“I think that the police can do whatever they want and they’ve shown that they will, so I can see there being a dangerous situation, but not because of the protestors.”

And what about the looters and vandals that damaged businesses and caused distrust of protestors early on?

“I can’t give away our strategy,” McKesson retorted, “But there are plans in place for people who want to exploit the movement.”

“We don’t support riots,” he added. “There are people out there who want to exploit pain and suffering, and that is real. What is different about this movement is that this is a community, this is no longer strangers who went outside and said this is unacceptable–which is what happened August 9.

“I believe in the strength of the protestor community to withstand people coming and potentially exploiting this movement and the moments around this movement for their own personal gain.”