Chief: Ferguson officer unaware slain teen was robbery suspect

Alan Scher Zagier
Associated Press

Ferguson, Mo. — Police on Friday identified the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and released documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a “strong-arm” robbery shortly before he was killed.

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.”

Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer, has patrolled suburban St. Louis for six years and had no previous complaints filed against him, Jackson said.

Brown’s relatives said no robbery would justify shooting the teen after he put his hands up. Family attorneys said Brown’s parents were blindsided by the allegations and the release of a surveillance video from the convenience store.

“It’s bad enough they assassinated him, and now they’re trying to assassinate his character,” said Benjamin Crump, the family’s attorney.

An attorney for the teen who was with Brown said his client has acknowledged to investigators that Brown took cigars from the store.

Jackson described Wilson as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.”

Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave after the Aug. 9 shooting, “never intended for any of this to happen,” Jackson said.

Police reports released Friday under an open-records request showed that at 11:51 a.m. on the day of the shooting, authorities received a 911 call reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched to the store, arriving within three minutes. The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man toward a QuikTrip store.

Descriptions were broadcast over the police radio.

A box of Swisher Sweets Cigars valued at $48.99 was taken, according to reports. The suspects were identified as 18-year-old Michael Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson.

Wilson had been responding to a call involving a sick child from 11:48 am until noon.

A minute later, he encountered Michael Brown walking down Canfield Drive. The documents contained no description of what happened between Brown and Wilson.

Police found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Brown’s body. Authorities determined that Johnson was not involved in the robbery and will not seek charges against him, Jackson said Friday.

Police “are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style” killing, said Crump.

Later Friday evening, the Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with other protesters as they walked through the streets to the site where Brown was fatally shot. He led the protesters in prayer.