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Ferguson police chief answers questions under heightened security

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is surrounded by his officers as he leaves a news conference in Forestwood Park on Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Jackson took questions in the quiet park after earlier identifying Darren Wilson as the officer who shot Michael Brown. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Finally, there was a name: Darren Wilson.

He is a police officer, 28, recently divorced and now the focus of national outrage.

At a press conference early Friday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson succumbed to multiple pleas to identify Wilson as Michael Brown’s shooter, saying public records law required him to do so.

But he offered few other details, except to say he was a “gentle, quiet man” and a “distinguished officer.”

Wilson worked as a police officer in neighboring Jennings for two years before joining Ferguson about four years ago, Jackson said.

Jennings closed its police department in late 2011 in the wake of a federal probe into the theft of grant money, and turned public safety over to St. Louis County Police.

Public records show Wilson was divorced last year in St. Charles County after two years of marriage. There were no children.

According to public records, Wilson now shares a Crestwood home with Barbara Spradling, 36, who is believed to be a Ferguson police officer.

The 1,500-square-foot home sits in a subdivision, built in the 1950s. It’s about a 35-minute drive from the site of the shooting. On Friday, no one was home to answer the door.

On the front porch was a wicker sofa. The flower beds were lined with roses, boxwoods and hydrangeas. The backyard sported an in-ground pool. According to real estate records, the Wilsons purchased the home in October. One neighbor who wouldn’t give her name described the Wilsons as “standoffish” and said they’d been gone for days.

Only a few hours after police released Wilson’s name, neighbors were already weary of reporters knocking on their doors. Some had posted signs, including one that said, “We don’t know anything … Pray for Peace.” Another sign said “Do not disturb,” and another said “We have 2 children. Do not knock!! No comment.”

For Wilson, Jackson said, the shooting “is absolutely devastating. He never intended for any of this to happen.”

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