People in a crowd hold signs and listen to speakers at a demonstration held in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown and following unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Ron Harris/Associated Press
Michael Brown, the unarmed black Missouri teenager shot dead by police, had allegedly stolen a box of cigars from a convenience store and pushed a clerk earlier that day, according to police documents released today.
Earlier Friday, Ferguson police Chief Thomas 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.
In the documents, it's alleged 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."
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.
The family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, said Brown's parents were "incensed" after being blind-sided by the public announcement and allegations against their son.
'Trying to assassinate his character'
"It's bad enough they assassinated him, and now they're trying to assassinate his character," he said.
Crump noted that police aren't releasing a photo of the officer but released photos from the store's security video that they say shows Brown grabbing a man inside the store. Crump said he hadn't seen the photos.
"[Police] are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style murder of their son by this police officer in broad daylight," said Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder.
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 armorred tanks.
Tensions in Ferguson boiled over after a candlelight vigil Sunday night, as looters smashed and burned businesses in the neighborhood, 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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