FERGUSON, Mo. — New details released today in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown could reignite racial tensions in a town still reeling from a week of violent clashes between police and mostly black community members.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson this morning identified Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white man, as the officer who shot and killed Brown last weekend. The police department also released an alleged surveillance video footage that appears to link the slain teenager with a convenience store robbery that occurred in the area moments before his fatal confrontation with police.
Photo by Getty Images
But the police chief’s account of the events raised more questions than answers for members of this bereaved community. State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal is among those who have serious doubts about the police’s version of events.
"It's unfortunate if every black man looks alike," Chappelle-Nadal said. "If it is true … man … Even if you're stealing something, it doesn't mean your life is taken away. That, honestly, would be terrible, if that's the case."
Others responded to the news with skepticism, wondering if police aren’t just trying to justify the actions of the officer whose name they released.
"The police have had nearly a week to construct scenarios that provide a basis for a defense," said Jerroll Sanders, founder of community organization ONUS, Inc.
The police’s announcement came amid an emerging calm that settled over the Missouri town Thursday night as state police relieved local cops of security duty and protestors continued to gather peacefully in the area near last weekend’s shooting.
Ferguson Police agreed to release the officer’s identify after refusal to do so for nearly a week, leading many in the community to doubt due process or a fair investigation into the shooting. Still, few details are known about officer Wilson, other than the fact that he’s a six-year veteran of the police force who had no history of disciplinary actions against him. Wilson was reportedly responding to a robbery call that led to his confrontation with Brown. Wilson is reportedly being treated for injuries that resulted from the confrontation.
Photo by Getty Images
The police’s reversal on that issue, as well as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s Thursday afternoon decision to deploy state troopers to relieve local cops, kept a fragile truce between the community and security agents last night.
By late Thursday, state troopers calmly patrolled the area, smiling and greeting protesters. The city’s main artery, W. Florissant Avenue, remained unblocked. Demonstrators were again chanting the familiar, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” refrain, in reference to the shooting of Brown, whom self-described witnesses say was holding his hands in the air and asking police not to shoot at him at the time he was killed. Drivers honked their horns in support as they rode by the protest.
It was an entirely different tone. A night earlier, nightfall had triggered violence, as riot police clashed with protesters.
Yet as a new day starts in Ferguson, it remains unclear whether the tenuous truce will hold or whether today’s revelations will spark another round of violent clashes.
Sen. Chappelle-Nadal said the release of the officer’s name has satisfied one of the community's basic requests for transparency in the case, but there are still many unanswered questions.
"What's more important is to get all the facts," she said.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. with information about Wilson's age and race.