Police Identify Officer, Allege Teen Robbed Store

David A. Lieb and Alan S. Zagier, Big Story, August 15, 2014

Police on Friday identified the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and released documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a “strong-arm” robbery shortly before he was killed.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Michael Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.”

Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer, has patrolled suburban St. Louis for six years and had no complaints filed against him, Jackson said.

Brown’s relatives said no robbery would justify shooting the teen after he put his hands up. Family attorneys said Brown’s parents were blindsided by the allegations and the release of a surveillance video from the convenience store.

“It appears to be him,” attorney Daryl Parks said, referring to the footage, which he said was released without any advance notice from police.

The police chief described Wilson as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.” {snip}

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According to police reports released Friday, authorities received a 911 call at 11:51 a.m. on the day of the shooting reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched to the store, arriving within three minutes. The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man toward a QuikTrip store.

Descriptions of the suspect were broadcast over the police radio. The officer did not find the suspects either on the street or at the Quik Trip, the reports said.

The robber took a box of Swisher Sweets, a brand of small, inexpensive cigars. The suspects were identified as 18-year-old Michael Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, according to the reports.

Separately, Wilson had been responding to a nearby call involving a sick 2-month child from 11:48 am until noon, when he left that place. A minute later, he encountered Michael Brown walking down Canfield Drive. The documents contained no description of what happened between Brown and Wilson.

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The Aug. 9 video appears to show a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store’s door. A police report alleges that Brown grabbed the man who had come from behind the store counter and “forcefully pushed him back” into a display rack.

Johnson, Brown’s friend, told investigators that Brown took cigarillos, his attorney, Freeman Bosley, told MSNBC. Bosley said he was aware of video but had not seen it.

Police have determined that Johnson was not involved in the robbery and will not seek charges against him, Jackson said.

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Brown’s death ignited four days of clashes with furious protesters. The tension eased Thursday after the governor turned oversight of the protests over to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Within hours, the mood on the street lightened, with state troopers walking side-by-side with peaceful protesters and no hint of violence. {snip}

Friday’s announcement by the police chief was met with disbelief and anger by several dozen Ferguson residents who also attended the news conference, which was hastily held at a gas station burned during a night of looting earlier in the week.

“He stopped the wrong one, bottom line,” yelled Tatinisha Wheeler, a nurse’s aide at the news conference.

A couple of dozen protesters began marching, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

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