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Ferguson police chief apologizes to Michael Brown's family in video

Ferguson police chief apologizes to Michael Brown's family in video

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FERGUSON • Police Chief Thomas Jackson apologized to the family of Michael Brown and to protesters in a video released Thursday.

In the video, released by a public relations firm representing the city of Ferguson, Jackson apologized directly to Brown’s family and to protesters who felt the police mishandled the protests that followed the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson.

“Before we can engage in further discussion of the broader issues, I think it’s important that we address the central issue that brought us here today, and that’s the death of Michael Brown,” Jackson said. “I want to say this to the Brown family: No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son.”

The video apology marks the first time Jackson has publicly addressed the Brown family directly.

Jackson also addressed criticisms that Brown’s body had lain in the street for several hours in the Canfield Green apartment complex.

“I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” he said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who are trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

He continued, “Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African-American community or the people of Canfield. They were simply trying to do their jobs.”

Speaking on behalf of the Brown family, attorney Anthony Gray said the apology comes at a time when trust in the chief “has reached an irreversible low.”

“It is nearly impossible to measure any reach of his apology at this time,” Gray said in an email. “Most observers, I believe, are locked into their opinions about the handling of the shooting of this unarmed teen. Dynamite, much less an apology, will do little, in my opinion to move anyone off their opinions at this point.”

Gray said the Brown family will continue praying that “peace, calm and justice will prevail.”

The police chief’s apology was released on the same day U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation became public. Earlier this month, Holder opened a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether Ferguson police have engaged in a pattern of civil rights violations.

Gray could not say how he thinks Holder’s resignation will affect the investigation, other than to say that he’s hopeful things will stay on track.

‘MUCH WORK TO DO’

In addition to his apology to the Brown family, Jackson directed an apology to peaceful protesters who feel they couldn’t exercise their constitutional rights.

The police chief said he knows some African-Americans in Ferguson feel pain or distrust when it comes to police.

“The city belongs to all of us, and we’re all a part of this community,” Jackson said. “It’s clear we have much work to do.”

He said Ferguson, the region and the entire nation have problems to address, and he wants to be part of the solutions.

“For any mistakes I’ve made, I take full responsibility,” he said. “It’s an honor to serve the city of Ferguson and the people who live there.”

Jackson did not respond to several messages seeking comment about the video. The city’s public relations firm, the Devin James Group, also could not be reached.

But Jackson appeared outside the Ferguson Police Department late Thursday night with public relations representative Devin Sean James.

Jackson, who was wearing street clothes instead of his uniform, said to protesters, “All those things that are causing mistrust are being evaluated and we are going to be making changes.”

James did not make a statement.

About 11 p.m., Jackson started marching with protesters. A skirmish broke out perhaps 20 feet behind the chief, and one protester was arrested. A few minutes later, at least three other protesters were arrested after some kind of confrontation.

Earlier Thursday, state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a frequent critic of the police department’s handling of the protests, said she was glad Jackson apologized but felt as if it came much too late.

“He should’ve apologized to Michael Brown’s family right away. He should have apologized to the protesters immediately,” she said.

The senator called the video an attempt to clean up “mismanagement that’s been going on for six weeks.”

“I don’t know what this will mean to people. I’m glad he did it, but for so many people who feel so injured, it’s kind of late,” she said.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, also a critic of the Ferguson Police Department, weighed in on Twitter, saying the apology wasn’t enough.

“Chief Jackson’s apology to the Browns and the St. Louis community shouldn’t be in the form of a scripted video, but in a resignation letter,” French wrote.

NO PLANS TO RESIGN

Thursday afternoon, Jackson told CNN he was aware of calls for him to step down, but he doesn’t plan to do so anytime soon.

Jackson’s apology didn’t directly address one of his most polarizing decisions in the wake of the shooting — the Aug. 15 release of a video apparently showing Brown robbing a convenience store moments before he was fatally shot.

Jackson released the video at the same news conference at which he released the name of the officer who shot Brown.

The video’s release proved to be one of the more controversial moments in the aftermath of the shooting.

Supporters of Wilson seized on the video as proof that Brown was not the gentle giant that teachers had described.

Brown’s supporters argued that what happened in the store had nothing to do with the teenager’s shooting. Releasing the video, many of them said, was an attempt to assassinate Brown’s character.

Thursday’s apology video was released one day after St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar acknowledged that his department could have better handled the crisis in Ferguson.

Like Jackson, Belmar suggested Brown’s body shouldn’t have been left on the street for more than four hours after the shooting. Belmar further acknowledged that officers on top of armored trucks pointing rifles at protesters affected the way the law enforcement response was perceived.

Belmar did not, however, apologize for using tear gas and other aggressive tactics against groups who turned violent during some of the protests.

Valerie Schremp Hahn of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Koran Addo is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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