As the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri enters its second week, developments on the ground have mostly centered on the degree to which violence is being handled. Police have shifted gears several times in that regard, but little is being done to prevent the violence being done to the investigation of Mike Brown's killing.
Since Friday's treacherous press conferences by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, the situation on the ground in Ferguson has taken several dramatic shifts. Jackson's decision to release surveillance footage from a "strong-arm robbery" that allegedly involved Michael Brown angered residents, who again took to the streets to protest Friday night. In a scene that was extensively chronicled on the indispensable Twitter feed of Alderman Antonio French (D-Ward 21), looters were met by protesters who guarded the entrances to local businesses, including the Ferguson Market & Liquors where the alleged "strong-arm robbery" took place:
At the request of local leaders, including Alderman French, police did not engage with the looters, for fear it could escalate the situation. There were, however, engagements between police and protesters.
On Saturday, Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) held a press conference at which he announced a state of emergency, and a midnight curfew for the City of Ferguson. Residents were angered by the announcement, and let Nixon know it, particularly at about the fifteen-minute mark:
Overnight, the police presence returned to a more militaristic posture, including armored vehicles and tear gas. There were seven arrests, and one citizen was shot and critically wounded. As debate rages over the tactics employed to manage the community response to Mike Brown's killing (the curfew has been extended to Sunday night), next to nothing is being done to stop the violence being done to the investigation of Brown's killing, violence that's being done in broad daylight.
On Sunday, the Justice Department announced that it has ordered a federal autopsy of Michael Brown, in addition to autopsies by local authorities and investigators representing Mike Brown's family. The existence of a parallel federal investigation has been crucial from the start, but it is time for Governor Jay Nixon to completely remove local law enforcement from the investigation.
On Friday morning, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson completely derailed the herculean efforts of Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson to ease tensions between Ferguson residents and police by pairing his announcement that Officer Darren Wilson was the officer who shot Mike Brown with the release of surveillance video that allegedly showed Brown participating in a "strong-arm robbery" before the shooting. At a later press conference, he revealed that the suspected robbery was not related to the stop that resulted in Mike Brown's killing, and also revealed that he had not discussed the release of that surveillance video with Captain Ron Johnson, or with Governor Nixon, but he had informed the St. Louis County police.
What's been largely overlooked from that second press conference is a moment in which Chief Jackson nakedly demonstrates consciousness of guilt over the release of that surveillance video, which was a transparent attempt to shift guilt in the slaying onto the victim. Watch as he tries to explain the timing of the release, then realizes he's saying something out loud that he shouldn't be:
"It wouldn't be prudent to release that information, which could be, uh... um... I don't, uh, a little bit, uh... I don't know..."
The password is "inflammatory."
The fact that the Ferguson Police Department immediately handed over the investigation to the St. Louis County Police was supposed to prevent exactly this kind of sabotage from occurring, but also overlooked Friday was the fact that while Jackson was busy not telling the Governor or Captain Ron what he was planning, he did tell the County police, who also neglected to tell Nixon or Johnson, and as it turns out, did so over the objections of the Justice Department.
That, along with concerns over the objectivity of County Prosecutor Bob McCullough (not to mention the four hours they left Mike Brown's body in the street), should be more than enough for the public to conclude that these parties should not have any access to, or control over, any information related to this case. They are breaking a hell of a lot more than windows, and right now, there is no one standing in their way.
Update - 8/18/2014: Hey, remember that odd reference to toxicology that St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar made in that press conference over a week ago? At the very first press conference held following the killing of Michael Brown?
Well, check this out:
(A) person familiar with the county’s investigation told The Washington Post that Brown had between six and eight gunshot wounds and was shot from the front.
In addition, Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Things that make you go "Hmmmmm." And also make you go "Take these dirty saboteurs off the case."
Watch Belmar telegraph the leak last Sunday morning, at about the 1:55 mark: