FERGUSON – The police chief in a St Louis suburb where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager said he’s holding off on publicly identifying the officer because of death threats.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said he planned to release the officer’s name today but changed course after threats were called into the police department and City Hall, and posted on social media. The officer was placed on administrative leave Saturday after fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown.
“If we come out and say, ‘it was this officer,’ then he immediately becomes a target,” Jackson said. “We’re taking the threats seriously.”
Jackson didn’t disclose specifics of the threats, but he said the decision came after a stream of death threats against the officer and other officers. The case has stoked racial tension, protests and looting in Ferguson, a predominantly black city with roughly 21,000 residents. Despite calls for calm from Brown’s family and civil rights leaders, crowds turned violent for two nights.
A large crowd that gathered throughout yesterday at the site of a burned-out convenience store turned rowdy at nightfall, with people throwing rocks at police, Jackson said. Officers used tear gas and shot “beanbag rounds” meant to stun them.
There were at least five arrests but no reports of looting, St Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said. The night before, nearly three dozen people were arrested following a candlelight vigil as crowds burned stores, vandalized vehicles, assaulted reporters and taunted officers.
“People are tired. They have reached the end of their rope,” Ruth Latchison Nichols said after a crowded town meeting last night hosted by the NAACP.
“Enough is enough. This is a state of emergency.”
By early today, the streets were once again calm. A handful of police officers sat in patrol cars near the burned out gas station, vastly outnumbered by news crews putting together their early reports in Ferguson, which is nearly 70 per cent black.
National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks implored residents to “turn your anger into action” while condemning the violent response to Brown’s death. The organization hosted a community forum yesterday that drew hundreds of people.
“To sneak around under the cover of darkness, to steal, to loot, to burn down your neighbourhood – this does not require courage,” he said. “Courage is when you strive for justice.”