The Department of Justice urged Ferguson police not to release surveillance video purporting to show Michael Brown robbing a store shortly before he was shot and killed by police, arguing the footage would further inflame tensions in the St. Louis suburb that saw rioting and civil unrest in the wake of the teenager’s death.
But on Friday, police released the video that stoked outrage in Ferguson, with Brown’s family calling it “character assassination” and a smear campaign. A law enforcement source told NBC News that Ferguson police wanted to release the video Thursday, but the Department of Justice convinced them to withhold the footage over fears it would spark further unrest.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson released the video Friday, telling reporters that he had no choice because the media requested the release under the Freedom of Information Act. The Department of Justice, which is conducting its own investigation into Brown’s Aug. 9 death, has had a copy of the footage all along and never considered releasing it to the public, the source said. Early Saturday, a lull in the violence which has rocked the town of about 21,000 people was shattered when more stores were looted and tear gas was once again used to disperse crowds.
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