Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageMan charged in Ferguson police shooting

By Robert MacPherson (AFP)     Mar 15, 2015 in World

Police charged a young African-American man Sunday in connection with the shooting in Ferguson last week that wounded two police officers and rekindled tension in the racially troubled Missouri city.

Jeffrey Williams, 20, is charged with first-degree assault, armed criminal action and shooting a firearm from a motor vehicle causing injury, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch told reporters, after an intense four-day manhunt.

"Essentially what we have charged him with is firing shots, it's possible at this point that he was firing shots at someone other than the police, but struck the police officers," McCulloch said, adding that Williams had admitted to the shooting but the investigation was ongoing.

Ferguson has been in the international spotlight since a white policeman fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, igniting sometimes violent protests in major American cities and prompting an impassioned debate about policing and race relations.

This booking photo provided on March 15  2015 by the St Louis County police department shows shootin...
This booking photo provided on March 15, 2015 by the St Louis County police department shows shooting suspect Jeffrey Williams
, St. Louis County Police Department/AFP

Wednesday night's gunfire erupted just hours after Ferguson's police chief resigned in response to a Justice Department report that alleged systemic racial bias in the city's overwhelmingly white police force, in a suburb of 21,000 that is two-thirds black.

McCulloch said that Williams had participated in some of the nightly demonstrations demanding justice that have taken place outside Ferguson's police station and municipal court house since Brown's killing.

After news filtered through of Williams' arrest, about 100 people gathered outside the police station in support of police and Mayor James Knowles. Facing them were a handful of anti-police protesters.

"This arrest sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated," said Attorney General Eric Holder, branding the shooting -- which saw one of the officers hit in the face -- "a heinous and cowardly crime."

- Participation disputed -

Protestors demonstrate outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson  Missouri on March 12  201...
Protestors demonstrate outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri on March 12, 2015
Michael B. Thomas, AFP/File

Protest organizers -- including a pastor who knows the Williams family -- disputed the assertion that he had taken part in the demonstrations, saying they did not recognize him.

"I've never seen his face," said Bishop Derrick Robinson, who visited Williams in his cell in the St. Louis County jail.

Robinson told AFP that Williams told him he had shot at a demonstrator who had attempted to rob him, but that he could not identify who that perpetrator was.

The pastor added that Williams showed him bruises on his body, which the detainee claimed had been the result of police beating him when he was taken into custody Saturday.

The two officers shot Wednesday were among a detail of several dozen police from around St. Louis County who had been sent to Ferguson as reinforcements.

Ferguson activists march through downtown during a protest on March 14  2015 in St. Louis  Missouri
Ferguson activists march through downtown during a protest on March 14, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri
Scott Olson, Getty/AFP/File

One, from the affluent white suburb of Webster Groves, was hit in the face, the other, a member of the St. Louis County force, in the shoulder. Both were treated in the hospital then released.

- Scathing report -

According to McCulloch, Williams -- being held on $300,000 cash bail -- "has acknowledged his participation in firing the shots," adding however that "he is innocent until proven guilty."

He also said a .40 caliber handgun that matched the shells found at the scene of the shooting had been found during a raid of Williams' residence in the Ferguson area.

Missouri has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States. No permit is needed to buy or own a handgun in the Midwestern state and open-carry is permitted.

It was unclear how the arrest would impact Ferguson, where McCulloch has been criticized after a St. Louis County grand jury for which he was responsible did not indict Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown.

In the damning report earlier this month, the Justice Department said Ferguson's police department and municipal court targeted African Americans in an attempt to collect fines and court fees to fill up city coffers.

Besides police chief Thomas Jackson, the city's manager, municipal judge and two police officers have resigned, and a clerk was fired for writing racist emails.

Mayor Knowles is under growing pressure to resign as well, but in interviews with US news media he has said he intends to stay in office to implement reforms and restore community harmony.

More about US, Justice, Police, Racism, Rights
More news from
Latest News
Top News