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St. Ann police officer suspended for pointing gun at Ferguson, Mo., protester

FERGUSON, Mo. — A St. Ann, Mo., police officer has been suspended after pointing a semi-automatic assault rifle at a protester in Ferguson, police said.

The officer pointed the gun at a peaceful protester after a "verbal exchange," according to St. Louis County police Officer Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the department. He said a St. Louis County sergeant immediately forced the officer to lower his weapon and escorted him from the area.

The officer, identified by news organizations as Lt. Ray Albers, was relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely.

"The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate, and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily, to keep the peace," Schellman said in a statement.

A protester captured the exchange on video that was posted to YouTube and several websites Wednesday. It happened Tuesday during another night of several protests that have followed the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

On the video, a man is heard saying, "Oh my God! Gun raised!" as the officer approaches. The identity of the man who shot the video is not known.

"My hands are up, bro! My hands are up!" the man said.

Members of that crowd verbally confront the officer, who appears to say, "I will (expletive) kill you. Get back."

Asked his name, he responded, "Go (expletive) yourself."

As reporters and cameramen gather, another officer arrives and uses his hand to lower the first officer's rifle, pointing it toward the ground.

In Ferguson on Wednesday, many business were open on the downtown commercial strip on W Florissant Avenue. A small group of people were still protesting, watched warily by a small number of police officers.

The relative calm came after another tense night Tuesday. About midnight, in the streets near where Brown was killed, bottles filled with ice and water were thrown at police. So was urine. Police said "agitators" hid behind journalists. Officers stormed a press area hunting for perpetrators. In all, 47 people were arrested — one for the third time since protests began.

As Ferguson prepared for another possible night of protests Wednesday, police released the first set of comprehensive arrest figures for who they have taken into custody since the demonstrations started. The records showed a total of 157 people have been arrested, 123 of them charged with refusal to disperse and a few on more serious counts such as unlawful use of a weapon.

Although 126 of those arrested were from Missouri, the records showed, the rest came from throughout the United States, including nine from Illinois, five from California and one from the District of Columbia.

Earlier Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union asked the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol to remove the officer who pointed his gun. The Highway Patrol is in charge of security in the Ferguson protests.

The ACLU letter asked Col. Ron Replogle to identify and remove the officer, calling his behavior "wholly unacceptable." "Such behavior serves to heighten, not reduce tension. It is also contrary to Missouri State Highway Patrol's effort to build a positive relationship with the community," the letter continues.

Capt. Ronald S. Johnson spoke to reporters about complaints against officers, acknowledging there has been "inappropriate behavior" by some since he has been in charge. He said he has taken "appropriate action," including sending some officers home.

Information from Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.

St. Ann, Mo., police Lt. Ray Albers points an assault rifle at a protester in Ferguson. On a video he appears to say “I will (expletive) kill you. Get back.”

Getty Images

St. Ann, Mo., police Lt. Ray Albers points an assault rifle at a protester in Ferguson. On a video he appears to say “I will (expletive) kill you. Get back.”

St. Ann police officer suspended for pointing gun at Ferguson, Mo., protester 08/20/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:51pm]
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