Hours after local police broke their silence Friday and identified the officer involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the Highway Patrol official who is heading security in the St. Louis suburb urged calm.
Capt. Ron Johnson, who was put in control of security efforts by Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday, said he was not briefed by local police before the identity of the shooter was revealed. Residents had demanded police release the name of the officer, now known to be Darren Wilson, since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed Saturday.
But sparking a new round of outrage was the local police’s decision to accompany the release of the officer’s name with a police report alleging the teenager to have taken part in a robbery at a nearby convenience store shortly before the shooting.
Brown’s family released a statement say they are “beyond outraged at the devious way” local police released the information, saying it was intended to “assassinate the character of their son.”
“It is in no way transparent,” the statement read, “to release still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown (robbing a convenience store) and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him.”
Johnson said he understood people’s frustration but hoped protests would go forward in accord with Thursday night, when police backed off previous military-style tactics and crowds remained peaceful.
“This inner anger, we have to make sure we don’t burn down our own house,” Johnson said.
After five days of violence, with heavily armed police officers using tear gas and rubber bullets against furious protesters, Thursday night bordered on a celebration. Johnson’s decision to scale back the police response received much of the credit.
“You know what you saw last night?” Johnson told reporters and community members Friday morning. “That’s what you’re going to see tonight.”
Fielding questions from frustrated residents, Nixon said the release of the officer’s identity will be but one critical point in the process of investigating the death of Brown.
“I think there are going to be some bumps along this road to justice,” he said, adding that he’s confident that the violence will be a thing of the past.
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