With trust within the community at an all-time low and the Governor of Missouri placing the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of security in Ferguson, the Ferguson police chief finally decided to release the name of the police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Mike Brown. On Saturday afternoon, Wilson shot Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black male, multiple times. Eyewitness accounts claim that the officer was the aggressor and killed Brown despite Brown placing his hands in the air and surrendering. It also appears that this tragic murder evolved from the officer wanting Brown and his friend to move from the street to the sidewalk.
Tom Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, made his announcement at the burned-out QuikTrip on W. Florissant Ave. Friday morning. The QuikTrip has become Ground Zero for protests in Ferguson. His hand was basically forced by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who not only removed control of law enforcement and security in Ferguson from Ferguson and St. Louis County police, but also said Thursday that the release of the officer’s name was an essential step that needed to be made soon. Jackson and St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar have taken a lot of heat in the past few days not only for the militarized way the police have handled the protests in Ferguson, but for their comments and actions regarding the investigation into Brown’s death.
Obviously, by making the announcement at the QuikTrip, Jackson is trying to appeal to the community, repair the image of the Ferguson police department and regain some trust within the community. The night before, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, in his first day overseeing security in Ferguson, literally embraced the protesters and marched with them to QuikTrip. He advised his police officers to take a hands-off approach and allow the protesters to assemble peacefully. He mingled with the crowd and spoke to the community. It was a complete 180 shift from what Ferguson residents had seen the previous few nights. In one night of compassion and understanding, Johnson repaired much of the emotional trauma that had been caused by local law enforcement’s overreach and brutal tactics.
Even if Jackson didn’t release the name on Friday, the officer’s name would eventually be made public. The ACLU submitted Sunshine Law requests on Wednesday to both the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments. The requests were for the police incident reports, which would have shown the officer involved at the scene of Mike Brown’s shooting. The state’s law says that Sunshine Law requests must be acted upon within three business days. While the police departments can withhold information pertaining to an active investigation, they must release incident reports. This knowledge, along with the Governor’s statement, basically left local police with no other action than identifying the shooter.
While releasing Wilson’s name, Jackson described a strong arm robbery at a convenience store in the area. It seems as if Jackson was fingering Brown as a possible suspect in the robbery. Jackson pointed out that the robbery was not at the QuikTrip, but did not name the store where the robbery call came from. After Jackson had left the scene, some residents were very angry about the way Jackson released the information. They were both upset with the fact that they were never told about any robbery in the area as well as the insinuation that Brown was in someway involved with the robbery. Jackson said that they have video surveillance from the robbery scene but carefully chose his words, making only vague implications.
The trust Jackson was hoping to regain within the community did not materialize.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).