Saint Louis, Mo. — Police, attorneys, and citizens across the St. Louis region won’t be seeing a resolution to the shooting of an unarmed black teenager for at least a few weeks, according to statements made by Ferguson law enforcement and county officials.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters an investigation into the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by an officer whose identity has not been released would take about two weeks. But less than one hour later, St. Louis County Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, told reporters that a timeline that short was “a push.”
McCulloch’s office will investigate the shooting and St. Louis County police will conduct the internal review of the incident to determine whether any criminal or unethical behavior took place last Saturday when Michael Brown was fatally shot multiple times while witnesses reported he was attempting to flee.
Police haven’t released many details, and McCulloch said a tight-lipped regime would remain in place so as not to compromise any of the evidence before it can be fully vetted.
“Particularly with social media these days, there’s a lot of information swirling around,” McCulloch said. “We want to make sure every single piece of evidence we have is thoroughly vetted.”
Ferguson police have released only minimal details of the shooting, citing the open investigation. According to local law enforcement, Brown was engaged in an altercation with an officer in which he pushed the officer into his own squad car as the two struggled over the officer’s weapon when a single round was fired. According to Ferguson police, Brown attempted to flee the fight and that’s when he was shot repeatedly.
At least one witness, Dorian Johnson, has appeared on several television interviews and spoken to the press. Johnson tells a far different version of events. According to Johnson, the officer attempted to grab Brown by reaching out of his patrol car. Johnson said Brown never attempted to strike or harm the officer and said he only saw his friend struggle to be released. Johnson reported that the officer drew his weapon while seated in his patrol car and struggling with Johnson, discharging one round.
Johnson then told reporters that, upon hearing the gunshot, he and Brown fled. The officer then got out of his vehicle and shot Brown who, upon turning around with his hands raised in an attempt to surrender, was then shot several more times in his head and chest. Johnson compared the shooting to an execution.
“My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting (him),” Johnson said in an interview with KSDK. “Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fetal position. I did not hear once he yell freeze, stop or halt. It was just horrible to watch.”
While the county will investigate if any state or local laws were violated, the FBI has agreed to conduct a supplemental investigation alongside DOJ Civil Rights Division attorneys to search for any federal laws that may have been broken, and to determine whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.
There is no video recording of the incident, but the pseudo-activist computer hacking group, Anonymous, has released what they claim are the audio tapes of the police dispatches on the day of the Ferguson shooting. Law enforcement officials have declined to verify the tape’s legitimacy, but they appear authentic.
According to the dispatch tapes, officers in Ferguson did not report a shooting or request EMS service. The officer involved in the shooting appears to request for “crowd control” backup and the dispatcher reports that Ferguson PD learned through news reports that one of their officers was involved in a shooting.
The investigation is expected to take several weeks, an uneasy proposition for law enforcement that hasn’t seen a night free of riots since Monday evening. Ferguson PD and the Mayor’s office urged peaceful protestors to limit their activities to daylight hours and acknowledged that non-Ferguson residents were exploiting the gatherings after dark to incite criminal activity. No official curfew will be enforced
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.