By Robert A. Vella
Here are the major developments that have occurred over the past day regarding the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent violent confrontations between local law enforcement and civilian protesters in that beleaguered town:
Yesterday, after a phone conversation with President Obama, Missouri governor Jay Nixon ordered the state highway patrol – headed by Captain Ron Johnson – to assume law enforcement duties in Ferguson (see: Missouri Gov. Puts Highway Patrol in Charge in Ferguson).
Afterwards Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney who would be responsible for bringing the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown to trial, responded to the Governor’s move. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – McCulloch blasts Nixon for replacing St. Louis County Police control:
“It’s shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that,” McCulloch said. “To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful.”
McCulloch’s peculiar reaction might be more indicative of his reluctance to prosecute the police officer in question than it is about the wisdom of Governor Nixon’s action.
Last night, at least several hundred demonstrators engaged in peaceful protest alongside state highway patrol officers whose behavior contrasted starkly with the aggressive militarism displayed by local police on the previous evening. No arrests were made. From the St. Louis Business Journal – Ferguson sees night of peaceful protest:
Capt. Ron Johnson of the state Highway Patrol, who grew up in Ferguson, walked with protesters to the QuikTrip that was looted and burned Sunday and has served as a gathering point during this week’s protests.
Also last night, thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities across the nation showing support for the people of Ferguson. From Talking Points Memo – Thousands Nationwide Join Rallies Against Ferguson Violence:
The vigils, observed in more than 90 cities as part of a National Moment of Silence, came days after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the death of a New York man caused by a police officer’s chokehold.
Another eyewitness – Tiffany Mitchell – to the Michael Brown shooting has told her story which corroborates other accounts standing in opposition to the official police reports on the incident. From KMOV – Another witness to Brown shooting comes forward; video shows graphic scene:
According to Mitchell, Brown, Jr, began to run away after the first shot was fired.
“After the shot, the kid just breaks away. The cop follows him, kept shooting, the kid’s body jerked as if he was hit. After his body jerked he turns around, puts his hands up, and the cop continues to walk up on him and continues to shoot until he goes all the way down,” Mitchell said.
Watch Lawrence O’Donnell‘s interview with this witness: Tiffany Mitchell: ‘I don’t trust cops anymore’
Today, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson finally released the name of the police officer and released a video allegedly showing Michael Brown committing a “strong-arm” robbery earlier in the day of the shooting. Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson may have confirmed the petty theft, but many see the simultaneous disclosure of these two pieces of information as an attempt to assassinate the character of the deceased victim. In any case, a strong-arm robbery precludes the use of any weapon, and the theft itself is unrelated to the killing – although it might have some bearing on the police search for the alleged robber. From MSN – Police: Teen shot by cop suspect in recent robbery:
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released several police reports and documents during a news conference where he also identified the officer involved as Darren Wilson [emphasis added], who has been on administrative leave since he shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of taking a box of cigars from a store in Ferguson that morning, according to police reports. Jackson said Wilson went to the area after a 911 call reporting a “strong-arm” robbery just before noon. He said a dispatcher gave a description of the robbery suspect, and Wilson, who had been assisting on another call, was sent to investigate.
UPDATE – 8/15/14 – 12:55 PM PDT: The MSN article has been changed. It now states:
Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Michael Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.”
UPDATE – 8/15/14 – 22:05 PM PDT: Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson changed his story again. From USA Today – Chief: Officer noticed Brown carrying suspected stolen cigars:
Hours later, however, Jackson told a slightly different story to CNN and NBC, saying that Wilson noticed Brown was carrying a box of cigars that had been reported stolen. Wilson, he said, initially stopped Brown for blocking traffic, but as he began driving past Brown, he noticed Brown was holding cigars.
At that point, Wilson “made the connection” that Brown might have been involved in a theft that had just been broadcast on police radio, Jackson said.
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The part of your post that talks about protesters not being harmed by police is very good news. It sounds like Captain Ron Johnson knows how to manage protests in a humane manner. That’s definitely progress. I hope it continues. The county prosecuting attorney’s reaction to the change in law enforement is troubling, though. How will he handle the criminal case against the officer who shot Brown?
Also good news is the support and solidarity shown for the Ferguson community by people all over the country. Unity is a very good idea right now.
Much has changed for the worse in Ferguson since this post covered the peaceful protests from last Thursday night and the developments on Friday. The county prosecuting attorney (Robert McCulloch) does not seem willing to charge the police officer who killed Michael Brown (Darren Wilson).