Friday, August 15, 2014

When "Too Protect and too Serve" becomes "Military Police to intimidate and harass"


(Reuters) - Minutes before a police officer shot him dead, Michael Brown had become a suspect in the theft of cigars from a store, according to police reports released on Friday after days of protests in a St. Louis suburb over the unarmed black teenager's death. But what, if anything, that had to do with the fatal encounter became less clear as the day went by. Hours after the reports' release, police said that Officer Darren Wilson, 28, had no idea 18-year-old Brown was a robbery suspect.

He simply wanted Brown to move from the road to the sidewalk, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said at a news conference "He was walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. That was it," Jackson said. After nearly a week of accusations that the Ferguson Police Department did not know how to communicate with the public, Jackson did little to dispel that image during two appearances on Friday. He was visibly nervous, stuttering as he fumbled his notes, and made announcements that sowed more confusion. After releasing the robbery incident report without any attempt to explain its fuller context, he let more than five hours pass before confirming, and only when asked, that Wilson did not know about the robbery when he encountered Brown.

 The decision by the police department, which is overwhelmingly white, to release a report on the robbery while keeping details of the shooting secret only added to the frustration felt by many in the St. Louis area. Still, as protests entered their sixth night on Friday there was far less tension than earlier in the week, before local forces were replaced by state police led by an African-American captain. Outside a burned-out building where protesters were shot with rubber bullets two days ago, the scene resembled a summer carnival.

Horns blew in support as cars drove past a crowd of people, many of whom brought picnic coolers. Hope Walker, 46, sat in a folding chair on the sidewalk with some friends. "It's more like a block party than what I was calling little Beirut," said the music teacher. Earlier Friday, after identifying Wilson as the officer involved in the shooting, the Ferguson police chief described him as a "gentleman" who has been devastated by the incident. Wilson worked four of his six years as an officer on the Ferguson police force, Jackson said. Wilson's identity has been kept a secret since the Aug. 9 shooting and authorities had been under mounting pressure to both identify the officer and to provide details about the investigation to ease unrest in the largely black community.

 Since Saturday's killing, which took place shortly after noon on a street running through a quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood, protesters have converged on Ferguson. Civil rights groups have complained that Brown's death is the latest in a long history of racial profiling and harassment by police, and discriminatory arrests. Some residents saw the police report on the robbery as the latest example of the pattern. "This is how the police operate here, they always defame the name of the victim," said area resident Arthur Austin, 39. "The more I hear, the less I trust what the police are saying." RALLY ON SUNDAY A Brown family attorney said it appeared to be Brown in the convenience store's security-camera footage, which showed a man shoving a store clerk during an apparent robbery.

Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown that day, told the FBI and Justice Department officials about the robbery this week, his lawyer said. Anthony Gray, a Brown family attorney, said the talk of a robbery was a "distraction" raised by police. He said the real issue was why Wilson shot an unarmed Brown as the teenager held his arms in the air in a sign of surrender, as two witnesses described.

 The Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the civil rights group National Action Network, issued a statement condemning what he called a "smear campaign" against the teenager. Sharpton said he would lead a rally on Sunday with Brown's family, who expressed outrage at the police report in a statement on Twitter. "There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender," the statement said. According to the account given by Jackson and the police reports his department released, police received a call about the robbery and an ensuing altercation with a clerk at 11:51 a.m. on Aug. 9. A suspect description went out over police radio.

 Wilson left a prior call he was on and then encountered Brown at 12:01 p.m. Three minutes later Wilson had fatally shot Brown, Jackson said. Wilson, who has been put on paid administrative leave, has been shielded from the public. A lone police car sat outside Wilson's single-story brick house on Friday, and neighbors posted signs on their doors asking to be left alone. One neighbor said Wilson had not been seen for days. Another posted a sign on their door that read simply: "We don't know anything. Pray for peace." The police version that has thus far been provided of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts, including that of his friend Johnson. In their earlier account, police said Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson before the officer pulled his service gun and shot Brown multiple times. Wilson sustained a facial injury, which was treated in a hospital, they said.

 But Johnson and one other witness have said that Brown was trying to get away from the officer, who tried to grab him after telling him to move off the street and onto a sidewalk. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but was shot several times, they said. Police have acknowledged that Brown's body was more than 30 feet away (nine meters) from the police car when he died and that multiple shell casings were found at the scene. (Additional reporting by Jason McLure in St. Louis, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Eric Beech)

MEMPHIS TN (IFS) -- Dorian Johnson's statements keep changing as the hours prolong.  Chief Thomas Jackson's statements are not any better. When Johnson tells his story about the altercation with the police officer, he states that he sees the officers weapon through the window, then he sees the officer fire a shot at Brown's upper body.  He continues to tell us then they began to run, after the first shots.  Nowhere in his statements does he say that Brown throw his hands up and said "Hands Up, don't Shoot".

Johnson is clearly attempting to get fame and face time.  The question is, why was only Brown shot and not Johnson, as they were together.

Chief Jackson, did not have the courtesy to meet with the Missouri State Patrol officer in charge at the request of the Governor.  He showed no respect for the the chain of command and other officers.

We understand that it's politics to toss up a smoke screen to protect your fellow officers and the terrible deed that was done, causing the entire nation to question the tactics of a chief of police that polarized the situation.

The role of the police is too "Protect and Serve".  These officers were totally para-military and treated their citizens as all criminals and arresting the press and causing more trouble than solving it.

It has been a long, strange day in Ferguson, Missouri: for reporters covering the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown, for residents reeling from the loss of a member of their community. It has probably been longer and stranger still for those directly affected by Brown’s death — his mother, Lesley McSpadden, his father, Michael Brown Sr., his friends. It has also, surely, been a long and strange day for the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown on Saturday and whose name was finally released to the public today by Police Chief Thomas Jackson. Death threats against the officer and his family, police said, kept them from releasing the officer’s name to the press initially. But pressure to release the name mounted all week, and police finally succumbed, announcing Friday morning that Police Chief Jackson would hold a press conference to announce the name at around 8:30 a.m. ET. Reporters gathered beside the smoke-stained carcass of a convenience store burnt by rioters in nights previous. It was a potent reminder of the clashes between protesters and heavily-armed police that the city had endured for days before Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, replaced Ferguson and St. Louis County police with Missouri State Highway Patrol officers led by Captain Ron Johnson. Johnson, a St. Louis native, has so far led a master-class in community policing. Gone are the heavily-armored vehicles favored by Ferguson and St. Louis County officers, gone are the riot gear and the weapons, replaced by equanimity and calm.

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