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Ferguson officer not heading to robbery

Ferguson police chief says the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown did not know he was a suspect in a robbery.

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St Louis riots: 'We want the law officers to keep the law, not break the law'

Authorities named Darren Wilson as the police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri last weekend, saying the officer had a good record and the incident came in the aftermath of a robbery in which the teen was a suspect.

Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday afternoon outside an apartment complex, had served six years on the force and had a good record, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said at a news conference on Friday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown as officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown as officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo: Reuters

Jackson said there had been a report of a robbery of cigars in a convenience store in the area a few minutes before Wilson encountered Brown walking down the street near an apartment complex. The robbery suspect had been described as a black male wearing a white T-shirt, according to police records Jackson released on Friday morning.

But the officer who shot Brown was unaware that the 18-year-old was a suspect in the robbery of the nearby convenience store, Jackson said at a news conference later on Friday. 

Rather, Officer Darren Wilson, 28, shot and killed Michael Brown after he asked Brown to move out of the street onto a footpath, Jackson said.

A woman voices her displeasure after the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown was released in Ferguson, Missouri.

A woman voices her displeasure after the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown was released in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo: Reuters

"He was walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. That was it," Jackson said.

The deadly interaction was swift: Jackson said Wilson encountered Brown at 12:01 pm and had shot him by 12:04 pm.

Michael Brown's family outraged at timing of convenience store revelation

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson reads a police timeline of events leading up to the police shooting of Michael Brown, which includes the robbery of a local convenience store.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson reads a police timeline of events leading up to the police shooting of Michael Brown, which includes the robbery of a local convenience store. Photo: AP

About two dozen residents gathered at the news briefing by Jackson, and some were outraged that police suggested Brown was a robbery suspect when he was killed.

The decision by the police department, which is overwhelmingly white, to release a report on the robbery while keeping details of the shooting secret fueled outrage that has roiled the St Louis area.

The release of the information drew a quick rebuke from Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Brown family and released a statement on their behalf:

People react after Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson speaks at a press conference.

People react after Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson speaks at a press conference. Photo: AP

"Michael Brown's family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight," Crump said in the statement.

"There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution-style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender."

He said that in the days it took to release the information from the Saturday shooting, the distribution of still photographs of a robbery allegedly involving Brown, and the fact the police did not release a photograph of the officer "is the reason why the family and the local community have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies."

Calming the situation ... Captain Ronald Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was appointed by the governor to take control of security operations in the city of Ferguson, walks among demonstrators gathered along West Florissant Avenue.

Calming the situation ... Captain Ronald Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was appointed by the governor to take control of security operations in the city of Ferguson, walks among demonstrators gathered along West Florissant Avenue. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

He said the family will focus on information including the autopsy and ballistics reports.

After identifying Wilson as the officer involved in the shooting, Jackson described the officer as a "gentleman" who is devastated over the situation. Wilson worked four of his six years as an officer on the Ferguson police force, the chief said.

"He never intended for any of this to happen," Jackson said.

Protesters enjoy a much calmer night due to a change in police tactics.

Protesters enjoy a much calmer night due to a change in police tactics. Photo: AP

Wilson's identify has been kept a secret since the August 9 shooting and authorities had been under mounting pressure to both identify the officer and to provide details about the investigation to ease unrest in the largely black community.

Since Saturday's killing, which took place shortly after noon on a street running through a quiet, tree-lined residential neighbourhood, protesters have converged on Ferguson, casting a spotlight on area racial tensions.

"I think it was the right thing to do releasing the officer's name, but for them to say this is an armed robbery makes me think this is a cover up," said Ferguson resident Milton Jackson, 37.

Peaceful demonstration ... Many people drove down the street honking their horns, raising their arms, and holding signs on West Florissant in Ferguson on Thursday evening. A change in police tactics has helped ease tension.

Peaceful demonstration ... Many people drove down the street honking their horns, raising their arms, and holding signs on West Florissant in Ferguson on Thursday evening. A change in police tactics has helped ease tension. Photo: AP

"I don't believe what the officer did was called for. Even if there was a robbery, it was unnecessary force to shoot an unarmed black man," he said.

Arthur Austin, 39, another resident, said: "This is how the police operate here, they always defame the name of the victim. Michael Brown had never been in trouble so it doesn't add up. The more I hear, the less I trust what the police are saying."

Protesters have expressed anger also over the fact that Brown's bloodied body lay in the middle of a narrow residential street for several hours on August 9 after he was shot.

Romel Turner, 3, holds a sign during a peaceful demonstration at Great St Mark Family Church, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown in St Louis.

Romel Turner, 3, holds a sign during a peaceful demonstration at Great St Mark Family Church, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown in St Louis. Photo: Reuters

But Jackson said Friday that several officers and an ambulance had responded quickly to the scene and "assessed" Brown. His body was not moved for hours because the scene was being investigated and recorded, authorities said.

Racial profiling

Civil rights groups have complained that Brown's death is the latest in a long history of racial profiling and harassment by police, and discriminatory arrests.

Security camera images released by Ferguson police of an alleged robbery of a convenience store. The suspect took cigars from the store. Officer Darren Wilson had stopped Michael Brown for questioning, according to police.

Security camera images released by Ferguson police of an alleged robbery of a convenience store. The suspect took cigars from the store. Officer Darren Wilson had stopped Michael Brown for questioning, according to police. Photo: Reuters

Some residents saw the police report on the robbery as the latest example of the pattern.

"This is how the police operate here, they always defame the name of the victim," said area resident 39-year-old Arthur Austin. "The more I hear, the less I trust what the police are saying."

The Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the civil rights group National Action Network, which is paying for Brown's funeral, issued a statement on Friday condemning what he called a "smear campaign" against Brown.

Sharpton said he would lead a rally in Ferguson on Sunday with Brown's family, who expressed outrage at the police report in a statement on Twitter but did not address the allegation.

"There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender," the statement said.

According to the account given by Jackson and the police reports his department released, police received a call about a robbery of cigars from a convenience store and an ensuing altercation with a clerk at 11:51 am on August 9. A suspect description went out over police radio.

Officer Wilson left a prior call he was on and then encountered Brown at 12:01 pm. Three minutes later Wilson had fatally shot Brown, and other officers and an ambulance were dispatched to the scene, Jackson said.

Police incident reports written some time after the robbery state that Brown, and a 22-year-old friend, Dorian Johnson, were both suspects in the robbery. Johnson, who has given his own accounts of the shooting but has made no public mention of a robbery, was with Brown when he was killed.

The police chief said later on Friday that Johnson was not complicit in any crime.

Differing accounts

The police version that has thus far been provided of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts, including that of his friend Johnson.

In their earlier account, police said Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson before the officer pulled his service gun and shot Brown multiple times. Wilson sustained a facial injury, which was treated in a hospital, they said.

But Johnson and one other witness have said that Brown was trying to get away from the officer, who tried to grab him after telling him to move off the street and onto a sidewalk. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but was shot several times, they said.

Police have acknowledged that Brown's body was more than nine metres from the police car when he collapsed and died and that multiple shell casings were found at the scene.

The name of the robbed convenience store was redacted by police, although a street name listed and security-camera footage of the store were released. A clerk at a store on that street that closely resembled the one seen in the video images said he knew nothing about the robbery. All three employees who were on duty last Saturday were away for the next two weeks, he said, declining to give his name.

Anger over the shooting brought thousands of protesters into the streets of Ferguson, and triggered nightly clashes from Sunday through Wednesday with police officers in riot gear.

But there was a marked shift on Thursday to a calmer tone after the governor put Ron Johnson, an African-American Missouri Highway Patrol captain, in charge of security.

Under his direction, roadblocks were lifted, and instead of using tear gas and intimidation, Johnson's teams walked the streets to talk with protesters and listen to their concerns.

"Last night was a great night," he said. "People were talking ... getting their voice out." 

'On the road to healing'

Nixon told ABC News on Friday that the officer, who was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, would be protected against any possible retaliation.

"I think that will be a step on the road to healing here and justice," Nixon told ABC News.

The move to identify the officer comes after the American Civil Liberties Union sued St Louis County and the county police on Thursday, seeking copies of initial police reports of the shooting.

Civil rights leaders from around the country, community activists and protesters also demanded that the officer be identified and be held accountable for the killing.

Thousands of protesters demanding justice for Brown's killing have clashed with riot gear-clad local police since Saturday, though there was a marked shift on Thursday to a calmer tone after the governor put an African-American Missouri Highway Patrol Captain in charge of security for the area.

Rather than confront protesters with riot gear, rubber bullets and tear gas, a small number of police mingled with the crowd on Thursday night, urging a healing to the racially charged situation.

The protests cast a spotlight on racial tensions in greater St Louis, where civil rights groups have complained in the past of racial profiling by police, of the arrests of a disproportionate number of blacks and of discriminatory police hiring practices. 

Just three of Ferguson's 53-strong police force are black, while two-thirds of the town's population of 21,000 are black.

The police version of the Saturday shooting of Brown differs markedly from witness accounts. Police have said that Brown reached into the police car and struggled with the officer who shot and killed him. They said Wilson was injured during the incident and was treated in a hospital for swelling on the side of his face.

But some witnesses have said Brown was trying to get away from the officer, who had tried to grab him after telling him to move off the street where he was walking and onto a sidewalk. Witnesses said Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but was shot several times in the street outside the apartment where he was walking to visit his grandmother.

Reuters, The Los Angeles Times