Unrest continues to rock Ferguson; What’s next as authorities probe the killing of Michael Brown?
Unrest continues to rock Ferguson, Missouri.
A man is in critical condition after a shooting early Sunday. Seven people were arrested and a police vehicle was shot at — all of which took place during a government-imposed curfew.
State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, in charge of security for the town, said police were responding to the shooting incident rather than the curfew violation.
The St. Louis suburb still roils a week after a white officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man. Witnesses say Brown was holding his hands in the air when he was shot.
Much of the continuing hostility arises from how Ferguson authorities released on Friday police reports and surveillance video showing a man fitting Brown’s description allegedly committing a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store moments before the shooting last weekend.
Here’s what lies ahead for the small town of some 22,000.
Is the case over?
Far from it.
There are two ongoing investigations into the shooting of Brown by a Ferguson police officer.
St. Louis County investigators are looking into the shooting and the events surrounding it.
FBI agents, working with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and a U.S. Attorney’s office, have interviewed some witnesses in Ferguson.
“Over the next several days, teams of FBI agents will be canvassing the neighborhood where the shooting place to identify any individuals who may have information related to the shooting and have not yet come forward,” the U.S. Justice Department said Friday.
This comes after Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, called for the U.S. Justice Department inquiry into whether police used excessive force.
The ongoing pace and potential surprises of the investigation are sure to produce “angst and pressure” in Ferguson, Nixon said.
“There’s a lot of steps between now and when justice is served,” Nixon said. “I think there are going to be some bumps along the road to justice.”
In the meantime, the Ferguson Police Department has surrendered its security-enforcing duties to the Missouri Highway State Patrol after Ferguson riots evoked scenes from a war zone: Para-militarized local police fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades at protesters in fiery clashes earlier this week.
What becomes of the police officer?
Officer Darren Wilson, 28, who has six years of policing experience, is on paid administrative leave, authorities said.
His record has been clean of any disciplinary measures, the Ferguson police chief said.
The officer will have to undergo two psychological evaluations before returning to any duty, authorities said.
Whether and when he’ll return to duty is uncertain in the face of the two ongoing investigations.
In the meantime, law officials described Wilson as “very shaken.” He was briefly taken to the hospital following the confrontation with Brown because Wilson suffered an injury that left his face swollen, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said.
“He’s devastated. He never intended for this to happen,” Jackson said. “He was a gentleman. A quiet officer. He is and has been an excellent police officer.”
What’s next for Brown’s family?
The Brown family has retained a law firm and expressed outrage at how the police have handled the entire situation, including Friday’s simultaneous release of the officer’s name and the surveillance video of the purported robbery.
The family and the town’s African-American residents accused the police of trying to damage Michael Brown’s character. Chief Jackson said he released both the officer’s name and the video because the media requested it.
The family has conceded their son wasn’t “a perfect kid,” said family attorney Daryl Parks.
The family and their attorneys, however, took strong exception with the police chief’s handling of information.
“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,” the family and their attorneys said in a 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,” the statement said.
The family has made “plain and clear” they don’t want anyone angry to riot, loot or resort to violence, attorney Anthony Gray said. But they do want people to stand with them and press for action.
“We’re asking the community … to please support us, stay with us, but do not get distracted,” Eric Davis, a cousin of Brown’s mother, said Friday. “We do not want to see any violence in the street.”
What will the community and protesters do?
In a town that is about two-thirds black with a nearly all-white police force, state authorities are urging protesters to talk out their anger with troopers and among themselves, rather than engage in violence and destruction to businesses as some demonstrators did earlier in the week.
To help achieve that, Capt. Ron Johnson, the Missouri Highway Patrol officer in charge of security in Ferguson, was to continue for a second night Friday his personal walkabouts among protesters to demonstrate how peaceful and sensitive police want to be with the community’s anger, he said.
While Johnson was effective in restoring peace Thursday evening, the ransacking and homemade firebombs of Friday night and early Saturday were a different story.
Johnson, who’s African-American, likes to approach protesters to initiate conversations, a contrast to how county police and SWAT teams donned riot gear at a great distance from demonstrators earlier in the week.
“In our anger, we have to make sure we don’t burn down our own house,” Johnson said. “That hurts this community.”
Residents plan to keep protesting and will hold a silent vigil while holding their hands up in the air outside the Ferguson Police Department at noon Saturday, near the hour that a week earlier Brown was killed.
There will also be a rally starting at 3 p.m. Sunday in a park near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis — about 12 miles southeast of Ferguson — that members of the Brown family are expected to attend.
“We want the truth to come out,” said Davis, the cousin of Brown’s mother. “And we’re sure that it will as the days (go) on.”