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Updated: Fri, 15 Aug 2014 20:03:55 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Michael Brown shooting: Family says no robbery justifies teen's 'execution'



On Friday, the Ferguson, Mo., community learned the shooting officer's name -- Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer who has spent the last six years patrolling the St. Louis suburbs. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

On Friday, the Ferguson, Mo., community learned the shooting officer's name -- Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer who has spent the last six years patrolling the St. Louis suburbs. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The officer who shot and killed Michael Brown was unaware the unarmed black teenager was a suspect in a convenience store robbery earlier that day, and had stopped Brown and his friend because they were walking in the middle of the street blocking traffic.

 "[The robbery] had nothing to do with the stop," Ferguson, Mo., police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters.

"They were walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic, that was it," he said.

Asked why the police released details of the robbery if stopping Brown had nothing to do with that case, Jackson said "because the press asked for it."  

The family of Brown said allegations that he had stolen a box of cigars from a convenience store and pushed a clerk earlier that day do not justify the "execution-style murder" of the unarmed black teenager by a police officer.

"Michael Brown's family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate [piecemeal] information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight," the family said in a statement, released by their lawyers. 

"There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution-style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender."

Earlier Friday, Jackson identified Darren Wilson as the six-year police veteran who shot 18-year-old Brown, in an incident that has sparked several days of clashes with furious protesters.

Wilson spent the first two years of his career with the police department in nearby Jennings, Mo., before moving on to Ferguson for the past four years. Ferguson's police force is nearly all-white. The town's population is about 70 per cent black.

But police also released documents alleging Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, had entered a convenience store in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, a community of 21,000, earlier that morning.

The documents allege Brown had taken the box of cigars, and as he left the convenience store, "aggressively" pulled the clerk towards him and then "immediately" pushed him "back to a display rack."

"The police strategy of attempting to blame the victim will not divert our attention, from being  focused on the autopsy, ballistics report and the trajectory of the bullets that caused Michael's death and will demonstrate to the world this brutal execution of an unarmed teenager," the family said.

In a news conference later in the day, Eric Davis, a cousin of Brown's mother, said the release of the information by police was "basically smoke and mirrors to try to divert attention from what happened." ​

He said it had nothing to do with Brown being down on his hands and knees, saying "Don't shoot."

Jackson said Wilson, along with other officers, were called to the area after a 911 call reporting a "strong-arm robbery" — a robbery with no weapons but use of physical force — at a nearby convenience store.

Before the identity of the officer was released, police had said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer's weapon.

Shot fired inside car

At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.

Johnson, who says he was with Brown, has told a much different story. He has said the officer ordered them out of the street, then grabbed his friend's neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. 

Johnson, Brown's friend, acknowledged to investigators that he and Brown were in the store and "that he did take cigarillos," his attorney, Freeman Bosley, told MSNBC. Bosley said he was aware of video but had not seen it.

Brown's death has sparked several days of clashes with furious protesters in the city. The mood quelled on Thursday after the governor turned oversight of the protests over to the state Highway Patrol. State troopers walking side-by-side with thousands of peaceful protesters replaced the image of previous nights: police in riot gear and armoured tanks.

Tensions in Ferguson boiled over after a candlelight vigil Sunday night, as looters smashed and burned businesses in the neighbourhood, where police have repeatedly fired tear gas and smoke bombs.

By Thursday, there was a dramatic shift in the atmosphere after Gov. Jay Nixon assigned protest oversight to Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black and grew up near Ferguson. He marched alongside protesters.

"We're here to serve and protect," Johnson said. "We're not here to instill fear."

The streets were filled with music, free food and even laughter. When darkness fell — the point at which previous protests have grown tense — no uniformed officers were in sight outside the burned-out QuikTrip convenience store that had become a flashpoint for standoffs between police and protesters.

"All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas," Pedro Smith, who has participated in the nightly protests, said Thursday. "This is totally different. Now we're being treated with respect."

President Barack Obama on Thursday spoke publicly for the first time about Ferguson, saying there was "no excuse" for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed witnesses to the shooting.

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