Posted on December 4, 2014

As National Guard Prepares to Leave Ferguson, Michael Brown’s Stepfather Faces Investigation

Manny Fernandez and Mitch Smith, New York Times, December 2, 2014

As National Guard troops began withdrawing from this troubled region, police officials said on Tuesday that they were investigating whether the stepfather of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a white police officer in August, incited a riot by issuing an invective-filled call to action outside the police department Nov. 24, not long before protesters began smashing windows and burning cars.

The angry outburst by the stepfather, Louis Head, occurred just after the announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, in Mr. Brown’s death. St. Louis County Police officials said they were investigating Mr. Head’s comments as part of a broader probe into the widespread violence following the grand jury’s decision.


Mr. Head, reached by phone Tuesday, said he had not heard from the police about an investigation. “I’m not worried about nothing,” said Mr. Head, who declined to discuss the comments he made last week.

After a stretch of days with no violent protests, Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Tuesday that the Missouri National Guard would wind down its operations in the region. {snip}

Although Thomas Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, told Fox News on Monday that the authorities were “pursuing” Mr. Head’s statements, it remained unclear whether the people who started fires, broke windows or looted stores had been influenced by his remarks–or had even heard them.

On Nov. 24, shortly before 8:30 p.m., as hundreds of protesters who were assembled outside the police station here learned Officer Wilson was not being charged, Mr. Head embraced Mr. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, on the hood of a car. Protesters had been listening to the announcement on loudspeakers and car stereos, and the family’s reaction was videotaped and published by The New York Times. Mr. Head turned to the crowd, stomped on the hood and shouted, repeatedly, “Burn this bitch down!”

While making his outburst, Mr. Head asked for a microphone, but he was not handed one, and it seems most likely that many in the crowd, spread throughout a four-lane street and adjacent parking lots, had no idea that he had spoken.