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A six-year police veteran named Darren Wilson was identified Friday as the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in a St. Louis suburb last weekend, touching off a week of sometimes violent protests and a military-style police response.
A police report made public Friday also revealed that the teen, Michael Brown, was suspected of stealing a box of cigars from a convenience store and assaulting a clerk minutes before the officer shot him to death.
Thomas Jackson, the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, said later that the officer did not know Brown was a suspect in the robbery when he stopped Brown. Asked why Brown and a friend were stopped, the chief said: “Because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.” Jackson later said that "at some point" during the encounter, the officer saw the cigars in Brown's hands and thought he might be a suspect.
The chief described Wilson, 28, as a distinguished policeman and a “gentle, quiet man” who was devastated by what happened. Wilson has been a policeman for six years, including on the Ferguson force. The chief declined to say where Wilson was or what security precautions had been taken for him.
Jackson described what at the convenience store before the shooting as a “strongarm robbery.” The police report said that Brown was there with his friend, Dorian Johnson. Police also released pictures taken from surveillance video that appeared to show a confrontation.
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A 911 call about the robbery came in at 11:51 a.m., according to the police chief. A minute later, dispatchers gave a description of the suspect. The officer encountered Brown at 12:01 p.m. Three minutes later, the shooting was over, and a second officer was on the scene, he said.
The chief said earlier in the week that the officer had been taken to a hospital with injuries to his face. He has been on administrative leave since the shooting. Jackson had declined for days to release the name of the officer, citing threats issued on social media.
Sharply different accounts of the shooting have been given previously by police and by Johnson.
Police have said that an officer encountered Brown and another man on the street. They have said that one of the men pushed the officer into his patrol car and that there was a struggle over the officer’s gun. They have said that Brown ran and the officer fired multiple times.
Johnson, however, told MSNBC that the officer ordered him and Brown off the sidewalk. He said that the officer tried to thrust his car door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. He said the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck, pointed the gun at him and said, “I’ll shoot.”
Johnson also said that the officer fired shots after Brown turned with his hands up and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”
Another witness emerged Thursday and, in an interview with MSNBC, corroborated major details of Johnson’s account.
Johnson’s lawyer confirmed to MSNBC on Friday that Brown had taken the cigars from the store.
The unrest in Ferguson escalated and peaked on Wednesday night, when police fired tear gas into crowds of protesters and arrested 16 people, including two reporters. Police were criticized for a military-style presence that included officers atop armored trucks aiming rifles at crowds.
Relative calm was restored Thursday night after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put the state Highway Patrol in command.
Nixon, in a statement on Friday, said he was pleased that the officer’s name had been released.
“For the sake of the family, the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire region, it is vital that the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown move forward in a thorough, open and transparent manner to ensure that trust is restored and justice is done,” the statement said.
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