TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Cop Said Michael Brown Reached for the Officer’s Gun

Officer Darren Wilson told investigators that Michael Brown reached for Wilson's gun

The police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and that Brown reached for his gun, The New York Times reported late Friday. The story marks the first time the officer’s account of the shooting that sparked weeks of protests and sometimes violent clashes between outraged citizens and police has become publicly known.

Citing unnamed government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation, the Times reported that the police officer, Darren Wilson, told investigators he was in fear for his life as he and Brown struggled for the officer’s gun. Wilson also said that Brown punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.

FBI forensics tests confirm the gun was fired twice in the car, with the first bullet hitting Brown in the arm and the second bullet missing its target. Forensics tests also show Brown’s blood on the gun, on the inside of Wilson’s car door panel and on Wilson’s uniform.

Wilson’s testimony to investigators, however, contradicts some witnesses’ accounts, and does not fully answer still-looming questions raised by the shooting. Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, said Wilson’s story doesn’t explain why the officer fired at Brown multiple times after leaving the vehicle, for example.

“What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” said Crump. “The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.”

[New York Times]

TIME protests

Second Day of Protests Take Shape in St. Louis

Updated Saturday, Oct. 11

ST. LOUIS (AP) — More than 1,000 people gathered Saturday for a second day of organized rallies to protest Michael Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings in the St. Louis area and elsewhere.

Marchers started assembling in the morning hours in downtown St. Louis, where later in the day the Cardinals were set to host the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the National League Championship Series.

The crowd was larger than the ones seen at Friday’s protests. The main focus of the march, scheduled to wind through downtown streets for several hours, was on the recent police shootings but participants also embraced such causes as gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Police officers were stationed around the area.

The four-day event called Ferguson October began Friday afternoon with a march outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office in Clayton and renewed calls for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed. A grand jury is reviewing the case.

“I have two sons and a daughter. I want a world for them where the people who are supposed to be community helpers are actually helping, where they can trust those people to protect and serve rather than control and repress,” said Ashlee Wiest-Laird, 48, a church pastor from Boston who attended Saturday’s march in St. Louis.

The situation in Missouri especially resonated with Wiest-Laird. She’s white and her adopted sons, ages 14 and 11, are black.

“What I see happening here is a moment in time. There’s something bigger here,” she said.

Organizers said beforehand that they expected 6,000 to 10,000 participants for the weekend’s events. Police were not able to provide a crowd estimate Saturday, but organizers and participants suggested the march’s size may have approached as many as 2,000.

Planned — but unannounced — acts of civil disobedience are expected Monday throughout the region.

After the initial march in Clayton, the demonstrations moved to Ferguson on Friday night as protesters stood inches from officers in riot gear before dispersing. Many then went to the neighborhood on St. Louis’ south side where a police shooting of another black 18-year-old occurred Wednesday night.

The white St. Louis officer, whose name hasn’t been released, shot Vonderrit D. Myers after police say Myers opened fire. Myers’ parents say he was unarmed.

The officer was in uniform but working off-duty for a private neighborhood security patrol. Police said he fired 17 rounds, and preliminary autopsy results show a shot to the head killed Myers.

Tensions increased early Saturday in Ferguson after the St. Louis neighborhood protesting, with hundreds of protesters gathering outside the Ferguson Police Department. Some chanted, “Killer cops, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?” as a wall of about 100 officers in riot gear stood impassively.

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Visits Ferguson Ahead of Fresh Protests

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Sept. 26, 2014. Doug Mills—The New York Times/Redux

Paul is the first potential 2016 contender to visit the city

Sen. Rand Paul met with civil rights leaders Friday in Ferguson, Missouri, the city torn apart by racial unrest following the August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. During his visit, the Republican Senator, who is seen as a likely presidential candidate, stated his concerns about long prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, the loss of voting rights for felons and military programs to give unused equipment to local police departments.

“I wanted to find out what we could do to make the situation better,” Paul said of his visit Friday.

“Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote in an opinion piece for TIME this summer.

The meeting came just days after another young black man was shot by police in nearby St. Louis, after allegedly firing a stolen handgun at an officer. And it came on the eve of a weekend series of protests organized to keep national attention on the state’s issues.

Paul joined the leaders in the conference room of a real estate office across the street from an art installation Friday, where residents had tied ribbons to a metal fence with messages commemorating the protests that began in August after the shooting of 18-year-old African-American student Michael Brown. Paul arrived in town Thursday for a round table discussion at the Show Me Institute, a conservative think tank in St. Louis. That event, like the discussion with local and civil rights leaders in Ferguson, was not open to the press.

Friday’s discussion was free-ranging, less a speech than a question and answer session. People at the event said that they remained concerned about the GOP’s opposition to federal funding for job training and education and other social programs. Paul said that he would support increases in federal spending for job training in urban communities that could be paid for with cuts to the costs of incarceration. “I think there would be money for job training if you greatly lessened criminal sentencing,” he said.

“They are also frustrated that things aren’t happening fast enough,” Paul said after the meeting, which was organized by the NAACP.

Paul’s trip to Ferguson—the first by a 2016 candidate—is a reminder of how his position on criminal justice reform can make a Republican more palatable to the African-American community. As riots turned violent in Ferguson, Paul distinguished himself among Republicans by striking a more forceful tone in addressing the root of the protesters’ anger and putting forth potential solutions.

“He is stumping like he should be trying to stump if he wants to run for President,” said John Gaskin II, who participated in Friday’s event.

The fatal police shooting of Brown on August 9 revealed a deeper crisis of trust between the authorities and Ferguson community and sparked a discussion about race relations in America. While the armored trucks are gone and the air free from tear gas, this weekend demonstrators are expected to continue calling for the arrest of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who has remained free but silent since killing Brown.

TIME justice

Ferguson Protesters Arrested in First Confrontation With Police in Weeks

A police officer observes the crowd gathered in protest the police shooting of teenager Mike Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, Sept. 29, 2014.
A police officer observes the crowd gathered in protest the police shooting of teenager Mike Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, Sept. 29, 2014. James Cooper—Demotix/Corbis

A new round of clashes after nightly taunts by demonstrators

Police in Ferguson, Missouri arrested about half a dozen protesters Thursday night after days of late-night demonstrations and repeated acts of civil disobedience, marking an end to a period of relative calm after weeks of violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement after the August shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

Those arrested included members of an activist group known as the Millennials as well as a freelance journalist for CNN, The Washington Post reports. It’s not clear on what charges the protesters were arrested, but according to the Post, the demonstrators had been staging confrontations with the police for days, linking arms to block the street or loudly chanting in the streets well past an 11 p.m. noise ordinance.

On Thursday, police reportedly asked the group to quiet down, which sparked only louder chants and an eventual clash between law enforcement and demonstrators, reports the Post.

[The Washington Post]

TIME White House

Obama: Ferguson Exposed ‘Gulf of Mistrust’ Between Cops and Communities

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’'s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

Law enforcement targeting of blacks and other minorities "has a corrosive effect—not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America"

President Barack Obama said Saturday that the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. last month exposed the “gulf of mistrust” that exists between law enforcement and local residents in many communities.

Speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner, the President said that the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in the St Louis suburb “awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is, in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement.”

Statistically, the President noted, blacks in the United States are targeted at a substantially higher rate than whites in their cars and on the street, and more likely to get the death penalty. “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.”

“And that has a corrosive effect—not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America,” Obama continued.

To reverse the widening gap between minority communities and the people who police them, said Obama, “we need to help communities and law enforcement build trust, build understanding, so that our neighborhoods stay safe and our young people stay on track.”

Obama’s remarks Saturday came nearly two months after the shooting of Brown sparked a week of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and outrage around the country at the local police’s handling of the situation.

You can read the speech below:

TIME Crime

Police Officer Shot in Ferguson

Police-Shooting-Missouri
Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers stand posted at the corner of Chambers Road and West Florissant Avenue on Sept. 27, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo., as police search for a suspect in the shooting of a Ferguson police officer. Christian Gooden—AP

Was shot in the arm and is expected to survive

FERGUSON, Mo. — A search for two suspects in a St. Louis suburb that’s undergone racial unrest continued Sunday after a Ferguson police officer was shot in the arm following an encounter with two men at a community center who ran from him and then opened fire during a foot chase, authorities said.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a media briefing early Sunday that the officer approached the men around 9:10 p.m. Saturday because the community center was closed. As the officer approached, the men ran away. When the officer gave chase, “one of the men turned and shot,” Belmar said.

The officer was shot in the arm and is expected to survive, he said. Belmar did not identify the officer or give further details about his condition. He said the officer returned fire but said police have “no indication” that either suspect was shot.

A search was underway for the suspects early Sunday in Ferguson, where some community members remain uneasy in the wake of the August shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer.

Belmar said he did not think the officer’s shooting was related to two separate protests about Michael Brown’s shooting that were going on Saturday night around the same time.

Around midnight at the police station, approximately two dozen officers stood near a group of about 100 protesters who mingled on a street corner, occasionally shouting, “No justice; no peace.”

Nearby, part of a road was closed in town as police conducted a search for the suspects. Numerous law enforcement agencies were responding, and police helicopters were canvassing the area.

The officer’s shooting comes after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson issued a videotaped apology to Brown’s family earlier in the week and attempted to march with protesters, an effort that led to a clash with activists and several arrests on Thursday.

Brown’s parents told The Associated Press on Saturday they were unmoved by the apology.

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said, “yes,” when asked if Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said rather than an apology, they would like to see the officer who shot their son arrested.

A county grand jury is weighing whether to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s shooting.

The Justice Department, which is investigating whether Brown’s civil rights were violated, is conducting a broader probe into Ferguson police. On Friday, it urged Jackson to ban his officers from wearing bracelets supporting Wilson while on duty and from covering up their name plates with black tape.

Ferguson residents complained about the bracelets, which are black with “I am Darren Wilson” in white lettering, at a meeting with federal officials this week.

Brown’s shooting has also focused attention on the lack of diversity in many police departments across the country. In Ferguson, of 53 officers in a community that is two-thirds black, only three are African-American.

Also early Sunday, not far from Ferguson, an off-duty St. Louis city police officer was injured on Interstate 70 when three suspects fired shots into his personal vehicle, a police spokeswoman said.

Schron Jackson said the officer, who has nearly 20 years of experience, was being treated at a hospital for a minor injury to his arm from broken glass. She said there is no reason to believe the two shootings were related.

TIME Crime

Civil Rights Leaders Want Feds to Intervene in Ferguson Probe

“Whether they wear blue jeans or blue uniforms, criminals must be held accountable”

Civil rights leaders called Thursday for the federal government to intervene in criminal investigations into the deaths of two unarmed black men killed by police.

Officials from the National Urban League, the National Action Network and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemned the law enforcement response to both the cases of Michael Brown, who was shot by a Missouri police officer on Aug. 9, and Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by New York police earlier this summer. Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., the parents of Michael Brown, joined Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network said police offers need to be held accountable for the deaths of both men.

“Whether they wear blue jeans or blue uniforms, criminals must be held accountable,” Sharpton said. The news conference took place as Police Chief Thomas Jackson of Ferguson, Mo., publicly apologized to Brown’s family, weeks after often violent clashes in the St. Louis suburb over the shooting drew national attention.

Brown’s parents did not publicly comment on the police chief’s apology, but Sharpton said Thomas’ response was “too little, too late.”

“The answer is justice for this family,” Sharpton said. “Now to come with an apology when the family is here asking for the Justice Department to come in is suspect at best.”

A grand jury has been convened in Ferguson to determine whether or not charges should be brought against the officer responsible for Brown’s death. The grand jury proceedings have been wrought with uncertainty, and local civil rights leaders have suggested an indictment may not be coming. The Department of Justice is also investigating, looking into whether there were any civil rights violations at the time of the teen’s death.

But civil rights leaders said Thursday they want more. While they are in Washington, the families of Garner and Brown are set to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have convened for their annual legislative conference about federal legislation to end racial profiling and better monitor police activity. The leaders also announced an upcoming march to bring the “Hands Up” protest movement sparked by Brown’s death to the nation’s capitol.

TIME Civil Rights

Ferguson Citizens Given Wearable Cameras to Film Police

And Ferguson's police chief approves

In the wake of the killing of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., concerned citizens of the St Louis suburb will be donning cameras in a bid to prevent future abuses of power.

A California-based group called “We Copwatch” has raised more than $6,000 to buy video equipment for people in the Canfield Green Apartments, which are near the spot where Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in August, KDSK reports.

In addition to handing out the cameras, We Copwatch is partnering with community group the Canfield Watchman to teach classes about observers’ civil rights and how to effectively and lawfully monitor the police. Certain Ferguson police officers began wearing body cameras in early September.

“We knew the Ferguson police department was equipping themselves with 50 body cameras,” the organization’s co-founder Jacob Crawford said. “So we thought it best to equip this neighborhood with 110 body cameras.”

The program has already garnered the approval of Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson.

“Just the idea of private citizens filming the police doing their jobs, I don’t see anything wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it happens all the time” Jackson said. “We also have cameras now that we use to film our interactions with the public.”

[KDSK]

TIME Crime

Grand Jury Process Raises Questions About a Ferguson Indictment

Residents Of Ferguson Continue To Call For Change Over Handling Of Michael Brown Shooting
Police block demonstrators from gaining access to Interstate Highway 70 on Sept. 10, 2014 near Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson—Getty Images

The ongoing grand jury proceedings may suggest the prosecutor is trying to avoid backlash if Wilson isn't indicted

Officer Darren Wilson testified this week in the grand jury investigation into his shooting of Michael Brown, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The newspaper’s scoop was unusual. Unlike most criminal-justice proceedings in the U.S., grand juries are highly secretive. Leaking information about them is a criminal act.

But perhaps it should no longer be surprising to see the investigation take an interesting turn. More than a month after Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., the grand jury appears to be nowhere near a decision on whether Wilson should be charged. And the road to justice has been paved with strange decisions.

Several elements of the grand jury’s proceedings have been uncommon, according to legal experts surveyed by TIME. None of these decisions are necessarily improper. But together they have raised eyebrows. “This is not your regular St. Louis grand jury case,” says Susan McGraugh, a veteran Missouri criminal-defense attorney and law professor at St. Louis University.

The investigation has been fraught from the start. Residents of Ferguson, who have massed in protests each day since Brown was killed on Aug. 9, immediately cast doubt on the impartiality of McCulloch, who has been the county’s elected prosecuting attorney since 1991. McCulloch’s father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty by a black suspect. Critics have pointed to his record of charging police-involved shootings and suggested that his background may cloud his judgment in the case. There were early murmurs that McCulloch would recuse himself or be replaced by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. Instead, McCulloch has delegated the task of presenting evidence to two senior attorneys in his office.

The first unusual decision taken by the prosecutor’s office, experts say, was not to recommend a specific charge for Wilson. Instead, the prosecutors are presenting evidence as it becomes available, and leaving it up to the grand jury to decide what the evidence warrants.

To some members of the community, the decision was taken as a sign that McCulloch may be trying to avoid an indictment. “To present a case to a grand jury, without any direction or instructions with regard to what you want them to achieve,” says Adolphus Pruitt of the St. Louis NAACP, “gives the best odds that an indictment will not occur.”

McCulloch has ordered that all testimony in the case be transcribed. This is rare, because it can be used against witnesses in future legal proceedings. In addition, McCulloch has pledged to immediately release full transcripts and audio recordings of the panel’s testimony in the absence of an indictment. This too is highly unusual.

The prosecutor’s office, which did not respond to an interview request from TIME, has said these decisions were designed with transparency and openness in mind. But they may also be a way to head off criticism. “It will take the heat off McCulloch if the grand jury comes back with something that the public doesn’t like,” says McGraugh.

Without a charging recommendation, the grand jury has the option to indict Wilson on either first- or second-degree murder, or either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. “If they return an indictment for either murder or manslaughter, no one’s going to care that he didn’t have a charging recommendation,” says Jens David Ohlin, a professor at Cornell Law School. “If, on the other hand, they don’t return an indictment, he can deflect any criticism and say I presented all the evidence to the grand jury, and in their wisdom they decided.”

There is a greater chance that the jury declines to return an indictment than the public may expect, Ohlin says. “It’s a very difficult case.”

With three blacks and nine whites, the grand jury’s composition reflects the demographic makeup of the county, which is roughly one-quarter black. It was empaneled before Brown was shot, and began hearing evidence shortly after. The proceedings could prove unusually lengthy. Authorities originally suggested they expected a decision on whether to charge Wilson by mid-October. But a circuit judge recently extended the panel’s term, giving them until Jan. 7 to decide whether to charge the officer in connection with Brown’s death.

The case is complex, and justice is often slow. But within the community, there are suspicions that the protracted proceedings are a way to drag out the case until the anger on the streets fades—and, perhaps, to gain the benefit of winter weather that might deter protesters.

It won’t work, warns Pruitt of the NAACP. “If there’s no true bill,” he says, “as a community, we are going to be thrust right back into the same discontent and civil disobedience we experienced the first time around.”

TIME justice

Feds Seek to Patch Up Relations Between Cops and Communities

Justice Department's $4.5 million program is a response to the crisis in Ferguson

The Justice Department is launching a program to improve relations between communities and the law enforcement officers that police them, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.

The $4.5 million program is part of the department’s response to the crisis in Ferguson, which shed light on the deep-seated tensions between the police and urban and black communities.

“Each of us has an essential obligation – and a unique opportunity – to ensure fairness, eliminate bias, and build community engagement,” said Attorney General Holder.

Through the program, titled the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, law enforcement agencies will be provided training on “bias reduction and procedural fairness,” according to the Department of Justice.

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