Thursday, May 24, 2018

Officer in shooting gets death threats

As demonstrators gathered for the fourth straight day Tuesday, the police chief of Ferguson, Mo., said that because of death threats he will not release the name of the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. The killing has roiled racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

The parents of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot multiple times Saturday during a street confrontation with a Ferguson police officer, have called on authorities to release the name of the officer and prosecute him. Local law enforcement authorities and the Justice Department have launched parallel investigations into the shooting.

On Monday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said he would reveal the identity of the officer by noon Tuesday. But after threats were made to the police department and on social media, a spokesman for the department said it is not safe at this time to release the officer's name.

The announcement came after another night of unrest Monday, albeit smaller than the previous night, when vandals broke windows, looted and damaged 12 businesses in Ferguson.

In Monday night's standoff, police in riot gear fired tear gas into crowds of protesters and arrested up to 15 people.

The heated protests in part have reflected the racial divisions in Ferguson, population 21,000, where two-thirds of residents are black but police and city officials are predominantly white. Black leaders have called for nonviolent demonstrations to address racism in the Ferguson and greater St. Louis police departments.

"The unrest that has taken place in the wake of Mr. Brown's death at the hands of police is the unfortunate result of the understandable pain and frustration felt by that community," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc. "That pain and frustration are mirrored in communities across this country where unarmed black teens and adults have been killed by police and civilians. These feelings must be met with proactive efforts to address to what is clearly a deeply flawed system of police and civilian responses to perceived black criminality."

James Clark, vice president of a St. Louis nonprofit, Community Outreach for a Better Life, said the violence following Brown's death was "due to a total alienation of a certain class of African Americans."

Ferguson's police chief and mayor are white. Of the six City Council members, one is black. The local school board has six white members and one Latino. Of the 53 commissioned officers on the police force, three are black, Police Chief Jackson said.

Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped by police as whites, according to an annual report on racial profiling by the Missouri attorney general. Last year, 93 percent of arrests following car stops in Ferguson were of blacks. Ninety-two percent of searches and 80 percent of car stops involved blacks, the report said.

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