Guide to developments in Missouri police shooting
The Associated Press
FERGUSON, Mo. — After an unarmed black teenager was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, authorities have resisted calls to release the name of the officer while imploring protesters to keep their demonstrations calm and avoid new trouble in the city north of downtown St. Louis. Here's a look at the key elements of the shooting and the unrest that followed:
THE SHOOTING: Police have said the shooting happened after a scuffle between the officer and two men he encountered on the street. Police say one of the man pushed the officer into his squad car, then struggled with him in the vehicle, where the officer's gun went off. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times. Police have not said whether Brown was the person who struggled with the officer in the car. Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told media outlets that the officer ordered them out of the street, then tried to open his door so close to the men that it "ricocheted" back, apparently upsetting the officer. Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend's neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.
THE UNREST: Ferguson city leaders on Wednesday asked angry residents to keep their protests peaceful and to end them before nightfall in an effort to minimize trouble. Late Tuesday, a St. Louis County police officer shot and wounded a man who authorities said pulled a handgun on the officer. On previous nights, crowds have gathered to protest Brown's death, sometimes looting stores, setting fire to buildings and vandalizing property. They also taunted police and assaulted journalists. More than three dozen people have been arrested. Brown's family and civil-rights groups have pleaded for the community to stay calm.
THE INVESTIGATION: Brown's death is being investigated by St. Louis County police at the request of the smaller police department in Ferguson. The FBI has also opened an investigation into possible civil rights violations. Authorities are refusing to release any details about their investigation or identify the police officer who shot Brown. Ferguson police say releasing the officer's name will lead to retribution, while protesters and attorneys for Brown's family say knowing who pulled the trigger will help the community heal and determine if the officer may have been involved in previous incidents. The Justice Department has sent community relations experts to help Ferguson officers address their community's mistrust of the police.
THE PUBLIC DISCUSSION: Some civil rights leaders have drawn comparisons between Brown's death and that of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder charges. The St. Louis case provoked a broad discussion on social media sites about the death of young black men in racially tinged shootings. On Twitter, a campaign using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown has prompted many black users to post photos of themselves and ask how they might be portrayed in news reports if they became shooting victims.
FERGUSON, Mo. — In the days since an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb, a big question that's smoldered amid the outrage of many is who the officer is.
Authorities have refused to release the name of the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has said he's concerned about the officer's safety amid numerous death threats. Computer hackers have also targeted the city's website and released details online about individual city employees.
But civil rights activists and the attorney for Brown's family, all pressing for calm amid nights of unrest since Saturday's shooting, counter that knowing the officer's name may help the area to heal, allowing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others to dig into the officer's background for any prior brutality.
"We don't want anyone's life threatened. If someone like this officer is killed, then there is no justice," said John Gaskin III of St. Louis County's NAACP chapter. "What the officer may have done is certainly unacceptable, and we are outraged. But we want to be realistic here: This is a man with a family."
Investigators have released few details, saying only that a scuffle unfolded after the officer asked Brown and another man to get out of the street, and that the officer's weapon fired at some point inside a patrol car. Witnesses say Brown had his hands raised when the officer repeatedly shot him.
The shooting has exposed deep racial and economic fault lines in the community, with the release of the officer's name a festering demand of protesters, as well as activist computer hackers.
In the aftermath of Brown's death, the group Anonymous said in online postings that it was monitoring police treatment of Ferguson's protesters and threatened to disrupt the suburb's government websites.
On Monday, someone burrowed into the city website and shut it down for much of the day. Representatives of Anonymous have taken credit. Separately someone snipped City Hall's fiber-optic cable during a protest that day, Jackson said.
Jackson, whose 53-person police force includes just three black officers, said he was unaware whether the hackers obtained any personal information about his officers. But, he added, "I don't know why they'd sit on it if they did."
On Tuesday, hackers went after St. Louis County's chief, Jon Belmar, whose department has been asked to investigate Brown's death. Some posted pictures of Belmar's home and family online, as well as his home address and telephone number.
"Realistically, what positive could come from that information coming out?" Jackson said. "Right now, people want it so they can destroy that person's life. That's the only reason that group's asking for it."
At a Tuesday night community meeting, Belmar and the county's prosecutor, Robert McCullough, said law enforcement won't release the officer's name unless criminal charges are filed.
Still, impatience grows by the day.
"We have the right to know, and the family has the right to know who murdered their son," said Sahari Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Ferguson legal assistant.
"The community is crying out for transparency, and we want to be able to know what kind of person would shoot an unarmed kid in broad daylight," said Ben Crump, the Brown family's attorney who also represented relatives of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder. "Can you imagine if you are parents of a child shot multiple times in broad daylight and police won't even tell you the name of the shooter? That doesn't inspire confidence."
Associated Press writer Alan Scher Zagier contributed to this story.