Prosecutor Says Probe Of Fatal Missouri Police Shooting Needs To Take Its Course
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
FERGUSON, Mo. — Law enforcement officials on Wednesday asked for patience to allow the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown to take its course as tension over the Missouri teenager’s death continued for a fifth straight day.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said his office will take as much time as necessary to review circumstances that led a Ferguson police officer to fatally shoot the 18-year-old Brown on a street Saturday afternoon.
“The timeline on this is there is no timeline,” McCulloch told an afternoon news conference. “We will do this as expeditiously as possible. But we won’t rush.”
Resisting pressure from street demonstrators and public officials for answers that show why the unidentified officer confronted Brown and a companion shortly after noon on Saturday, McCulloch said the details may not emerge until the process of collecting evidence and presenting it to the grand jury is complete.
“I know that’s not the answer anybody wants to hear at this point,” he said. “Everybody wants to know what happened.”
McCulloch called the problem twofold. First, he said, ethical rules prevent prosecutors from disseminating the physical evidence. He also said he won’t do anything to corrupt the integrity of the investigation.
In response to a reporter’s question, McCulloch said it will certainly take more than two weeks to complete the investigation. He offered no specific estimate of the timetable. He cited a heavy volume of information that is being gathered in the case.
“We want to test the veracity and accuracy of anybody who comes to us,” McCulloch said.
McCulloch said a lot of information has come forward through social media, “some of it good, some of it bad.”
He stressed that the medical examiner’s report, 911 tapes, and other investigative material will be withheld at this point.
One new detail of Saturday’s shooting did emerge Wednesday when Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson in another news conference said the officer who shot Brown suffered facial injuries and was taken to a hospital.
Jackson also acknowledged that mending the strained relationship between his department and the African-American community is imperative for the city and region to move ahead following nearly a week of outrage, violence, and looting.
“We have always had real good relations with all of the neighborhood associations,” Jackson said. “Apparently, there’s been this undertow that now has bubbled to the surface, and it’s our first priority to address it, to fix what’s wrong.”
The first step, he added, is working with the community relations office on race relations that the U.S. Justice Department has dispatched to Ferguson.
The chief defended the racial makeup of the Ferguson department. Three of the agency’s 52 officers are African-American in a community where two-thirds of the population is black.
Jackson said he has worked to improve the diversity of the police department, adding it is a “constant struggle to hire and retain personnel.”
In the past few years, Jackson said, he has tried not only to recruit but improve quality of life in the department, including pay levels, to retain officers longer.
The comments from law enforcement in a week that has seen forums, prayer vigils, and a clergy-led parade Wednesday that passed many of the looted West Florissant Avenue businesses did little to quell the outrage spawned by Brown’s death.
As has been the case since Monday, the parking lot of a QuikTrip looted and burned Sunday evening has been the epicenter of hostility between protesters and police.
The animosity was for the most part verbal until a thrown bottle prompted police to fire smoke bombs at the crowd shortly before 9 p.m.
When police then ordered demonstrators to evacuate the area or face arrest the protesters responded that “we are not going anywhere.”
Police a short time later chased protesters into nearby neighborhoods after dispersing the crowd for the third straight night with tear gas grenades.
On Wednesday police also used piercing sound devices to scatter the crowd.
As they have since Saturday, demonstrators throughout the evening taunted and threatened police.
“If I’m going to go, I’m taking one of you with me,” warned one demonstrator.
Another shouted, “We’re not dogs, so what the hell you’ve got those whipping sticks for? Because you want to whip us like dogs.”
A county police tactical operations armored vehicle was deployed at the demonstration site for most of the night.
Protected by body armor, police sat atop the vehicle methodically fitting high-caliber automatic weapons into tripods, which were then trained on the crowd.
“You are being ordered to leave now!” police announced frequently through a public address system. “If you don’t leave peacefully there will be arrests.”
The crowd ignored the demand until the tear gas was fired.
As of mid-evening there were no reports of gunfire.
Prosecutors filed felony charges Wednesday against a man shot by police in a confrontation earlier in the day near the scene of the protests.
Esrail Britton, 19, was charged with second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action. He remained hospitalized, and earlier in the day was reported to be in critical condition.
Officials said they have two addresses for Britton, both of them vacant dwellings in the St. Louis area.
The shooting occurred about 1 a.m. at West Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road, in unincorporated St. Louis County, as county police responded to a report of four of five men with masks and shotguns in an area where shots were heard.
Wesley Lowery, a reporter with The Washington Post , was arrested Wednesday evening along with Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post , according to a Twitter post by Lowery.
He wrote that police came into the McDonald’s on West Florissant Road where the two were working, and tried “to kick everyone out.”
“Officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonald’s quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them,” he tweeted.
“Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of,” he wrote.
He said that he was detained, booked, “given answers to no questions. Then just let out.”
Reilly tweeted that a SWAT team invaded the McDonald’s where he was working and recharging his phone, and asked for identification when he took a photo. They tried to kick everyone out, he wrote. He wrote that he was “assaulted” by an officer.
Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch /MCT/David Carson
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