Police in Missouri released the name Friday of the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager last week, bowing to protester demands after days of violent unrest in the town of Ferguson.
The officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown was identified as Darren Wilson. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that Wilson is 28 years old, white and a six-year veteran of the police force with no disciplinary record. He said Wilson was “treated for injuries” that occurred during the confrontation with Brown last Saturday.
In a statement to reporters and members of the local community Friday, Governor Jay Nixon asked for calm while investigations into events surrounding the shooting continue and praised Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson, who was placed in charge security in Ferguson Thursday.
Johnson also addressed the crowd Friday morning, saying no calls to the police or arrests were made, tear gas deployed or roadblocks put in place on Thursday. “Last night was a great night,” he said. “People were talking people were inspiring each other getting their voices out.” Johnson promised that moving forward police will “communicate better” with the community. During Johnson’s remarks, members of the public continued to express outrage over the actions of law enforcement over the preceding days. Johnson repeated calls that the “inner anger we have” not lead to further violence.
“We need to make sure we don’t burn down our own house, that we don’t vandalize our own building,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t not prove a point that hurts this community and that’s what I do not want.”
Jackson provided few additional details about Wilson or what led to the shooting. But he did say Wilson was responding to an armed robbery, and police documents released Friday indicated Brown was suspected of stealing $50 worth of cigars from a convenience store. Surveillance video and images from the convenience store were also released, depicting what Jackson called a “strong-arm robbery” and what the police documents described as a suspect matching Brown’s description involved in the robbery.
Police have said Brown was killed in a struggle for an officer’s gun, but at least one witness has disputed that account.
Immediately following the announcement, peaceful protests continued at the QuikTrip convenience store where the police released Darren Wilson’s name in a press conference.
The town of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, erupted in violence in the days after the shooting, which critics held up as an example of excessive police force and racial inequality in the criminal justice system. Tensions escalated throughout the week as protesters, sometimes violent, were met with heavy-handed policing by Ferguson and St. Louis County police. The situation began to calm on Thursday after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pulled the county police from the town and replaced them with state troopers. President Barack Obama also appealed for calm Thursday.
“We need to get justice in this case,” Nixon said on MSNBC Friday before the announcement by Ferguson police. “It’s good news after a great deal of prodding they’re going to release the name of this officer.
“We saw an acceleration in the tone and the armor and knew it was time to make a change,” Nixon said. “Folks felt like they were under siege. When police forces work best, they’re part of the community, not a separate force to control that community.”
-Additional reporting by Alex Altman / Ferguson, Mo.