The Ferguson police released the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, whose death set off a riot and then a tense standoff with police in the St. Louis suburb. The shooter was Officer Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the Ferguson police force, who was treated for injuries and has not — as yet — been considered the target of a criminal investigation. However, the police also released the report of the incident, which stated that Brown himself was considered the prime suspect in another crime:
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson made the announcement Friday morning, having previously refused citing concerns over the officer’s safety.
Jackson said that Wilson had been an officer in the force for six years and no disciplinary action was taken against him. Wilson was treated for injuries after the shooting, Jackson said.
According to the police report, this incident may have been the consequence of an earlier strong-arm robbery. Another Ferguson police officer had been investigating a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store and had seen several angles from the store’s surveillance cameras of the suspects. The officer identified Brown as the primary suspect, and the witness to the shooting that has been talking with the media about those circumstances as Brown’s suspected partner in the robbery. Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly captured the report page in this tweet:
It is worth remembering that this incident is related to another incident detailed under Ferguson Police Report #2014-12391 as well as St. Louis County Police Report #2014-43984. In that incident, Brown was fatally wounded involving an office of this department. I responded to that scene and observed Brown. After viewing Brown and reviewing this video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident. A second person, also at that scene, identified himself as being with Brown. That person was later identified as Dorian Johnson. After observing Johnson and reviewing the video, I confirmed that he is the second suspect in this incident.
That was the investigating officer’s opinion, not an adjudicated fact — but it does suggest why a confrontation between Brown, Johnson, and the police may have escalated quickly. Reilly also tweeted four pictures from the camera system in the report:
Stills from camera pic.twitter.com/FEcmKc3oGr
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 15, 2014
Reilly was one of the two journalists arrested on Wednesday night in Ferguson. Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post is the other, and is also tweeting from the same report. Lowery notes here that the convenience store was a Quik Trip:
One Quik Trip was destroyed in the riot that led to the police response this week. There may be more than one Quik Trip in Ferguson, but if it’s the same one that burned this week, it would be a very strange coincidence.
The police didn’t have much else to say, which made some residents angry — but not all that many, Lowery reports:
Today’s reveal raises all sorts of questions, not the least of which is why the Ferguson PD didn’t release the information about the Quik Trip robbery sooner. It doesn’t justify shooting an unarmed man in the back as he’s running away if that’s actually what happened, but that claim came from the man who is a suspected accomplice in the earlier robbery — and would explain why the police officer might have taken an interest in Brown and Johnson in the first place. Assuming that the officer investigating the strong-arm robbery is correct in identifying Brown and Johnson, it calls into question the entire narrative of the shooting that has been provided mainly by Johnson himself.
If the Ferguson police had been more forthcoming about the incident up front, much of this week’s drama might have been avoided, or at least somewhat mitigated.
Update: Expect this to come up a lot in the days ahead:
If Brown and Johnson were fleeing from a felony theft, the shooting may have been justified under Missouri law — which may explain why the police handed out the report on the strong-arm robbery. But they still have not released the report on the shooting itself, and it doesn’t explain why it took six days to get around to discussing the robbery.