“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson, and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened,” Obama said, speaking from the Massachusetts island where he’s on a two-week vacation. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.”
Residents in Ferguson have complained about the police response that began soon after Brown’s shooting with the use of dogs for crowd control — a tactic that for some evoked civil-rights protests from a half-century ago. The county police took over, leading both the investigation of Brown’s shooting and the subsequent attempts to keep the peace at the request of the smaller city.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar said his officers have responded with “an incredible amount of restraint” as they’ve had rocks and bottles thrown at them, been shot at and had two dozen patrol vehicles destroyed.
The city and county are also under criticism for refusing to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing threats against that officer and others.
The hacker group Anonymous on Thursday released a name purported to be that of the officer, but the Ferguson police chief said later that the name was incorrect.
Like last year’s Trayvon Martin shooting, social media brought international attention to a tragedy that might otherwise have been known only to the immediate community. Ferguson spawned a proliferation of hashtags and was the dominant subject Thursday on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. Journalists and protesters offered real-time pictures, videos and text reports, and the world responded, often in outrage.
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.
The officer involved was injured, with one side of his face swollen, Jackson said.
Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told reporters that the officer ordered them out of the street, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed eyewitnesses to the shooting. A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said federal authorities have interviewed Johnson.
Holder spoke by telephone Thursday with Brown’s family to offer condolences and to tell them that the Justice Department was committed to a full and independent investigation.