Police in Ferguson released a video tape allegedly showing slain teen Michael Brown robbing a store even though the Justice Department warned that doing so could inflame racial tensions, CNN is reporting.
Ferguson cops had wanted to release the video on Thursday but held off when federal officials asked them not to release the tape, an unnamed law enforcement official told CNN. That tape allegedly showed Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store before a police officer shot the unarmed 18-year-old in the street last weekend.
Despite holding off Thursday, Ferguson police still decided to release the tape Friday over the Justice Department’s objections, according to CNN.
The Justice Department may have been correct about the effect the tape would have.
After a period of relative calm on Thursday night, protests got ugly again on Friday after police released the tape of Brown and revealed that he was a suspect in a robbery the day he was killed last weekend. Police may have made the situation even worse when they revealed later Friday that the officer who killed Brown did not even know he was a robbery suspect — a detail that suggests the convenience-store tape isn’t relevant to the shooting.
Brown’s family released a statement Friday declaring they were “beyond outraged” at the “character assassination” of their son.
The killing of the unarmed teen in broad daylight on Saturday, Aug. 9 sparked outrage in Ferguson, a city of 21,000 that’s a suburb of St. Louis. The city is 67% black but only three members of the 53-member police force there are African-American. Tensions between the local police and community members have likely been simmering for decades, and they erupted into angry protests after Brown’s death.
Members of the Ferguson police and St. Louis County police responded to those protests with riot gear, tear gas, and police dogs — a display that has started a national conversation about America’s increasingly militarized police forces. Local police were also widely criticised for a lack of transparency about the shooting and for arresting prominent journalists who were covering its aftermath.
The situation began to improve, albeit briefly, after the state’s governor, Jay Nixon, relieved local cops Thursday and brought in the state’s highway patrol to police the protests. That patrol was led by Capt. Ron Johnson, an African-American and a native of Ferguson, who encouraged members of the patrol to mingle with protesters.
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