The Chief of the Ferguson Police Department now says officer Darren Wilson realized that he might be talking to suspects in a strong-armed robbery when he encountered 18-year-old Michael Brown and his friend, just before the incident in which Wilson fatally shot Brown.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson (screencap courtesy KSDK)

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson (screencap courtesy KSDK)

Jackson had told reporters Friday afternoon that Wilson stopped Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, because they pair were walking down the street and blocking traffic, but did not know Brown was identified as a suspect in the robbery in which a box of cigars was stolen.

Jackson has since told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Wilson saw cigars in Brown’s hand and realized Brown might be the suspect.

Witnesses and police differ in their accounts of what happened next. Police say Brown and Wilson struggled for the officer’s gun before Brown was shot. Witnesses say Brown was shot while his arms were raised in surrender.

Brown’s family accuses Jackson and police of trying to slander Brown’s name in the public eye by releasing information on the robbery, and a related surveillance video, at the same time Wilson’s name was released.

See our earlier story on the identification of Wilson and the robbery information, including video

Jackson denies the timing of those releases was strategic, and says he released the video and incident reports because media outlets had requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. He says the Department has now released all the information it can.

Many, including the family’s attorneys and some protesters, say the robbery is irrelevant to the shooting incident and still doesn’t explain what happened when Brown and his friend encountered Wilson.

Brown’s family is pleading for peace and asking those reacting to the shooting or today’s release of information not to riot, after some protests in the past few days have turned violent including property damage and looting.

Earlier story:  Police Chief:  Officer didn’t know Brown was robbery suspect, denies attacking Brown’s character