One of the Brown family’s attorneys told ABC that the family was not shown a surveillance tape of their son allegedly committing a robbery before it was released to the media, nor were they given a chance to positively identify their son in the video.
A week ago on August 9th, an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking an ongoing wave of confrontations between protesting Ferguson residents and local law enforcement. On Friday, August 15th, Ferguson police released a convenience store surveillance video that purportedly shows Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery — shoving a clerk to take some cigars from the store — the same day he was killed.
Anthony Grey, a local lawyer in Ferguson, told ABC’s This Week that the Brown family was not shown the video before it was released to the press, even though they had requested “to see any video footage before it was released.” Nor were they given the chance to positively identify Brown in the video.
“They were appalled by it,” Grey told an ABC reporter on Sunday morning. “They saw it for the first time — a glimpse of it — on nationwide TV. They had requested an opportunity, through the attorneys, to see any video footage before it was released. That request was not honored.”
“No one was given the opportunity to authenticate it was Mike Brown Jr. in the video.”
When asked if the family believes it is their son in the video, Grey said “they haven’t examined it for that purpose,” but “there’s no reason not to believe that it’s him.” Another Brown family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, also said the person in the video appears to be Michael Brown.
However, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson also acknowledged the officer who shot Brown did not know he was a suspect in the robbery when he stopped Brown and another young man for “walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic.” And the release of the footage coincided with the decision by Ferguson law enforcement to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting, after the community had requested that information for days and been denied.
Jackson said he distributed the surveillance tape “because the press asked for it,” and because he couldn’t withhold it indefinitely.
“It’s a diversion, and it’s an attempt to smear Michael’s character,” said Eric Davis, a cousin of Brown’s mother, in reaction to the tape’s release.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) also told NBC on Sunday that the release of the video was “just not right.” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who took over operations in Ferguson at Nixon’s request, also said the release of the video in concert with the release of the officer’s name was “not the way that we needed to go.”
Protests and violent confrontations between residents and the police have continued in Ferguson over the week since the shooting. A brief period of calm ensued after Johnson replaced Jackson as the man in charge of police response. But violence and looting flared up again this weekend, possibly due to community response to the release of the video.
Gov. Nixon declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon and set a curfew for Ferguson from midnight to 5 am. Groups of protestors have also formed chains at night to protect stores and to discourage other crowds protestors from looting.