The hacker collective Anonymous on Thursday released the name of the police officer it believes shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown a day after releasing raw audio files from the St. Louis police dispatch the day of the killing.
St. Louis police told The Washington Post the hacker collective released the wrong name of the officer in question and have not confirmed the authenticity of the dispatch tapes. Twitter has since suspended Anonymous’s account.
Meanwhile, it was announced Thursday that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will relieve the St. Louis County law enforcement from policing the demonstrations in the city of Ferguson, clearing the way for state or federal intervention.
Anonymous has threatened to release the alleged officer’s photo at 10 am, his address at 12 pm and “full documents” at 2 pm Central Time if the St. Louis County Police Department does not respond.
The tapes convey the mood at the St. Louis Police Department on the day Brown was shot and reveal that no emergency medical services were called to the scene.
The St. Louis Police Department Wednesday said they were aware of the tapes and were investigating their authenticity. The officer who shot Brown works for the Ferguson Police Department, and audio of the Ferguson dispatches which will likely contain the internal conversations about the actual shooting, have yet to be released.
Throughout the tapes, dispatchers discuss assistance for crowd control in Ferguson by sending additional patrol vehicles, officers and K-9 units for backup. A little after 11 minutes into the tape, the dispatcher describes hearing the news about Brown’s shooting. A little later, a dispatcher can be heard saying that she called the Ferguson Police Department, and that they “knew nothing about it.”
An Anonymous member told Truthout in an email that the organization would not reveal how they obtained the tapes or who their source is. One member told Mother Jones that their source is a person who is “very close personally to the officer who killed Mike Brown, and that this person is terrified to be [Anonymous’s] source.”
“Mike Brown wasn’t the first victim of police brutality, and he’s not going to be the last unless we take a stand,” the member told Truthout. Anonymous is demanding federal legislation that would standardize how police violence is handled, as well as lay out national standards for police behavior.
Since Brown was shot Saturday, the hacker collective has taken the city of Ferguson’s website offline for several hours and flooded the city and police email inboxes with messages. The group also distributed the home address and phone number of St. Louis Police Chief John Belmar. In a Sunday video, Anonymous “promised” to release personal information on all Ferguson police officers if any of the protesters is harmed.
Organizers around the country have responded to the Brown shooting by organizing “National Moment of Silence” vigils for victims of police brutality.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters that 911 tapes of the day in question will be released to the public as soon as the tapes are processed. The investigation of Brown’s death is being handled by the St. Louis County Police Department, and the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
“We understand the anger. We understand that people want answers, and we understand that we’ve got a problem,” Jackson said Wednesday.
Community relations staffers with the Department of Justice are working with the local NAACP in St. Louis to arrange a meeting with the Brown family and Ferguson Police Department brass, which will likely take place Thursday, Jackson said.
Jackson stated that the Ferguson Police Department is not in possession of any video of Brown’s shooting. He said the department received a $5,000 grant to purchase dashboard-mount cameras, as well as “two or three” body-worn cameras, but the dashboard cameras have not yet been installed.
“We didn’t have enough money to pay for the installation, so we’re having to do that ourselves at our garage, so we just got them, and we’re going to be installing them pretty soon,” Jackson said.
Police presence in Ferguson has been described as a near war-zone-like atmosphere during the past three nights, with SWAT teams lining the streets in the main areas where protesters have been gathering, keeping weapons trained on the crowds and restricting press from moving past police lines.
Photos emerging from Ferguson clearly show police using military-grade weaponry such as short-barreled 5.56-milimeter rifles, which are based on the military’s M4 carbine, and using armored vehicles which look similar to mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, and even sporting uniforms that look eerily similar to that of a soldier’s. USA Today confirmed the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program that metes out hundreds of millions of dollars of military equipment and weaponry to local police departments throughout the United States.
Ferguson Police Chief Jackson denied that military equipment was used on protesters in Ferguson, saying city and county SWAT teams were utilized as well as the Highway Patrol. When asked why the department needed to use mine-resistant vehicles, Jackson replied, “People are using bombs now.”
Two journalists, Wesley Lowery with The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post were arrested Wednesday night in Ferguson after police told them to stop recording the night’s events. They were taken into custody shortly after. Lowery tweeted that an officer slammed him into a soda machine because he became confused about which door police asked him to walk through.
Unrest in Ferguson erupted again early Wednesday morning after officers shot and critically injured a man. (Police allege the man drew a handgun on an officer near some of the main protests areas in Ferguson.) Police claimed they were responding to reports of a group of five men wearing ski masks and carrying shotguns. One of the men allegedly shot at an officer. The injured man has been taken to a nearby hospital, according to Reuters.
The police report could not be independently verified. Police reports often permanently color how the facts of a particular incident are understood in both the courts and in the mass media but are often drawn from the officer’s first-person experience and can be inaccurate or bias the perception of event in the officer’s favor, especially if the officer has committed any misconduct.
This issue is at the heart of the outrage in Ferguson, as a police report claims Brown reached for an officer’s gun, but another witness claims this never occurred.
Peaceful protests turned violent shortly past midnight on Tuesday, when police launched tear gas canisters at protesters who were confronting a police line in Ferguson. Photos emerged of one protester hurling a tear gas canister back toward the police line. Ferguson police officers, who are mostly white in a suburb of St. Louis that is a predominantly Black, have also reportedly been heard calling the demonstrators “animals.”
The Ferguson Police Department requested that demonstrators and those gathering for prayer and mourning “do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner,” Wednesday after three days of unrest and protest in the St. Louis suburb since Brown was shot Saturday. The request was not a formal mandate, and a curfew is not currently in effect.
The Federal Aviation Administration also lifted flight restrictions over Ferguson Wednesday. A no-fly zone was issued over the area Sunday, which prevented press helicopters from entering the airspace to obtain video footage of the scenes below.
Ferguson police have tried to control the central narrative surrounding the events of Brown’s death, initially releasing a report that claimed Brown reached for the officer’s gun and presented a threat to the officer, but according to a friend of Brown’s who was present during the shooting, a different picture has emerged.
According to Dorian Johnson, a close friend of Brown’s who was walking home with him during the time of the shooting, a Ferguson police officer told the boys to “get the fuck on the sidewalk,” and that when the boys told the cop they were only a few minutes from their destination, the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck and attempted to pull him into the patrol vehicle window. When Brown reared back, the officer threatened to shoot him.
Moments later, according to Johnson, the officer fired a shot and let go of Brown. Johnson and Brown ran from the patrol vehicle. As Johnson took cover behind a car, he watched the officer shoot Brown in the back as he ran. Brown then turned around to face the officer and raised his hands into the air, telling the officer he was unarmed and to stop shooting. Johnson then said he watched the officer shoot Brown seven more times in the head and chest area.
“It was just horrible to watch. It hurt him a lot. I saw it in his eyes. It hurt him a lot,” Johnson told NBC News. “It was definitely like being shot like an animal. It was almost like putting someone in an execution.”