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Michael Brown's family accuses police of character assassination

Family lawyer criticizes release of alleged robbery video; police say officer who shot Brown didn't know he was suspect

The family and attorneys of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a police officer last week in Ferguson, Missouri, said Friday that they were "beyond outraged at the devious way" the town's police chief released security camera video in which a man — identified by authorities as Brown — is seen allegedly stealing a pack of cigars and shown shoving a clerk in a convenience store.

The video release was "intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight," read the statement issued by lawyers on behalf of family members. 

Police "are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style" killing, Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Brown's family, told reporters.

Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder.

Another family attorney, Anthony Gray, discussed how Brown was shot unarmed, with his hands up. 

"You have some of the most hardened criminals that when they gave this sign [raising their hands] they were taken into custody peacefully," Gray said, "I'm thinking Saddam Hussein. I'm thinking of Charles Manson." 

Also Friday, Ferguson police named six-year veteran Darren Wilson as the officer who fatally shot Brown in the St. Louis suburb. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Wilson did not know Brown was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting, saying at a Friday afternoon press conference that Wilson "never intended any of this to happen." 

Jackson said the robbery "was not related to the initial contact" between the officer and Brown on Saturday, and said Brown and another person were stopped because they were walking down the middle of the street and blocking traffic. 

When asked to respond to Brown's family accusing police of character assassination with the release of the video, Jackson said he "held onto it as long as possible," but disseminated the tape because of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests from members of the media.  

Friday's developments followed a night of vigils in various cities around the country in remembrance of Brown, whose death sparked protests against police brutality that at times turned violent and in which authorities shot tear gas and rubber bullets at participants.

Click for more coverage of Ferguson.

Jackson said Wilson encountered Brown after responding to a 911 call involving the robbery of a convenience store.

Police officials did not provide further information, and why Brown was ultimately killed remains an open question. According to witnesses, Brown was shot while his hands were in the air. However, police reports state that police struggled with Brown in a squad car and that Brown allegedly reached for an officer’s gun before being shot.

Jackson added that Wilson had no previous infractions while serving on the police force.

Later Friday, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson – an African-American placed in charge of Ferguson security Thursday – said he could not comment on Jackson's statement about a robbery after local residents called the perceived accusation against Brown "unfair" to his family.

Johnson said he expected to meet with Jackson Friday to talk about those details and images released of the alleged robbery.

At the press conference on Friday, Johnson invited local residents to ask questions, saying, "This is about the people that live in our community, and when this day is over a lot of the people standing here will be gone."

He lauded the nonviolence of Thursday night's protests, which were much more peaceful than previous nights after the governor's decision to put highway patrol in charge of security. The highway patrol replaced the St. Louis County police, who were accused of using excessive force and targeting the media.

"Last night was a great night, a great night," Johnson said, adding that security forces did not use tear gas or roadblocks. He also said that there were no arrests, and people were able to get their voices heard.

"We're going to communicate better, and we're going to give answers to their needs. We will continue every night, and you'll see me walking there ... so I can get briefings from the people living in this community," Johnson said. "This is our opportunity to show you that you can trust us."

‘Stop police brutality’

Thousands of people participated in a national moment of silence on Thursday for victims of police brutality, as vigils were held in more than 90 cities to protest the killing of Brown and police brutality against young African-American men.

Since the shooting, Ferguson has been the site of nightly, racially charged protests — often descending into violence as a highly militarized local police force clashed with angry residents.

In Seattle more than 100 people gathered near the downtown Westlake Mall, holding signs with messages such as “Unite against racism” and “Solidarity with Ferguson.”

Among the protesters was Rick Williams, brother of Seattle woodcarver John T. Williams, a Native American man who was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010. John Williams, who was partially deaf, was shot four times after failing to comply with the officer’s order to drop a knife — which he was holding along with a piece of cedar for carving.

In Detroit on Thursday, 16-year-old Ayanna King of Detroit was among hundreds at the city’s Hart Plaza, according to The Detroit News. She held a sign reading “We all bleed red but whose blood is on the streets!?”

Nearly 200 gathered in Providence, Rhode Island, to show their support for residents of Ferguson and denounce what protesters called excessive force by Ferguson police. People at the rally held signs reading “Stop police brutality” and “End the war on black people.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

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