Police and protesters have clashed once again in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police chief of the St. Louis suburb issued a videotaped apology to the family of the unarmed black teenager killed last month by a white police officer.
In his recorded statement Thursday, Thomas Jackson directly addressed the parents of shooting victim Michael Brown. The police chief said: “No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I am truly sorry for the loss of your son.”
Jackson also apologized for his officers’ decision to leave Brown’s bloodied body lying for hours in the street where he was shot. He said investigators were collecting evidence to gain “a true picture of what happened that day, but it was just too long.”
Brown’s death triggered weeks of protests in the streets of Ferguson that at times turned into violent clashes with police. Demonstrators accused law-enforcement officials of institutionalized racism against minorities in the area.
Police Chief Jackson had briefly joined demonstrators rallying Thursday night, but local news reports say he left when a scuffle broke out near him. Several protesters were arrested.
Jackson did not wear his uniform for the recorded apology of about two and one-half minutes. He told reporters in Ferguson he did that to emphasize the personal nature of his statement.
Since the August 9 shooting, some Ferguson residents and civil-rights activists have criticized officers’ tactics, accusing them of excessively aggressive treatment of peaceful protesters. On a number of occasions demonstrators were dispersed by officers in military-style combat gear firing tear gas.
Jackson addressed that issue in his video message, offering his apology to “any peaceful protester” who felt that police tactics violated demonstrators’ constitutional right to protest.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the circumstances of the shooting and the practices of the police department in Ferguson. In Missouri, a grand jury is considering whether Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, should face criminal charges; no decision is expected before late October.
The police have said that Brown was shot after a brief struggle with Officer Wilson, whom he was approaching in a threatening manner. Some witnesses have said that the 18-year-old was retreating from the officer, hands in the air, when he was shot.
Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.