The Chief of the Ferguson Police Department says the timing his Department has used in releasing information was not an effort to attack Michael Brown’s character, and says officer Darren Wilson didn’t know Brown was a suspect in a strong-armed robbery at the time Wilson fatally shot Brown on Saturday.
Chief Tom Jackson has been criticized by protestors and the family of Michael Brown for releasing the fact that Brown was identified as a suspect in the robbery of a nearby convenience store about ten minutes before the shooting, at the same time he released Wilson’s name.
“This seems, and people are telling to me, systematic,” Brown family attorney Anthony Gray told CNN. “It’s a systematic way to concoct a version of events and to taint this boy’s past rather than look at his future. It’s just a way to try to taint the minds of those that are supporting his family.”
Jackson says the robbery report and related surveillance video were released at the request of media under the Freedom of Information Act. He says he had been “sitting on” those, but says the timing was not strategic.
“We needed to release that at the same time we would release the name of the officer that was involved in the shooting so that we could just keep open and give you all the information that we have,” Jackson told reporters Friday afternoon.
Jackson says Wilson did not know that Brown was a suspect in the robbery at the time he stopped the pair. He says the pair were stopped by Wilson, “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. That was it.”
Jackson says evidence of the merchandise stolen in the robbery were found on Brown’s body.
Jackson said Wilson has served on the Ferguson Police Department for four years after serving two years on the police force in the St. Louis County city of Jennings. Jackson described him as “gentle, quiet man who was a distinguished officer,” and says Wilson has been devastated by the shooting and the events that have followed.
“He never intended for any of this to happen,” Jackson says of Wilson.
Witnesses accuse Wilson of fatally shooting Brown, unarmed, while he had his arms up in surrender. Police say Brown struggled with Wilson for his gun prior to being shot. The FBI and St. Louis County authorities are conducting separate but “parallel” investigations of the shooting.