Police fanned flames in Missouri riot, says Governor
The police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the week of riots which followed it have left “deep wounds” across America, the state’s governor has admitted.
Jay Nixon accused police investigating the death of Michael Brown, 18, at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson of seeking to “besmirch” his name, as a five-hour curfew aimed at curtailing the riots was lifted for the day.
He was speaking as the Justice Department announced that Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, had ordered a second autopsy on the body of the teenager at the request of his family, to be performed by a federal medical examiner rather than the state’s authorities.
Mr Holder said he was authorising the autopsy due to the “exceptional circumstances” of the case. One person is still in a critical condition in hospital after being shot and seven arrests were made at the weekend when a hard-core of demonstrators refused to abide by the midnight to 5am curfew, which Mr Nixon said would continue for the foreseeable future.
Police used tear gas to dispel the crowd in order to gain access to the injured man, who was found beside a restaurant where rioters had climbed on a roof. Little information has been made available about him, other than that he is thought to be a protester who was shot either accidentally or deliberately by an unknown fellow demonstrator seen wielding a handgun.
Another protester is also said to have fired on police during the seventh night of violent confrontations.
Governor Nixon was highly critical of Ferguson police for their early handling of the demonstrations and investigation into Brown’s death.
He said it had been inappropriate for the force’s chief to release a security video of the teen in which he appears to push a shop worker as he steals a box of cigars.
The footage was made public on Friday, the same day as police finally bowed to pressure name the officer who killed him. Officer Wilson, 28, was apparently unaware that Brown was a robbery suspect when he called him over for walking in the middle of traffic, resulting in a confrontation which ended in the latter’s dead. The exact facts of what happen are disputed.
Police handling of the protests which sprung up following Brown’s death, and the force’s investigation into Officer Wilson’s actions, are now coming under increasing criticism.
Governor Nixon accused Ferguson police of seeking to “besmirch” the teenager’s name.
He said: “I think it had an incendiary effect. I mean, when you release a picture and you clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting, shot down in his own street, a young man, and at the same time you’re releasing information to try to … tarnish him, then properly, there was a lot of folks that were concerned about that, and I do think it flamed it back up and has caused us to have to deal with some of that.
“It appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw.”
Congressman Lacy Clay, who represents the First District of Missouri, and who has described Brown’s death as murder, also accused Ferguson police of being: “way too heavy handed in the way they interacted with peaceful demonstrators.”
He called for more officers to be recruited from the black community. ( Daily Telegraph, London)