A spokesman for the Ferguson Police Department reportedly called Michael Brown’s memorial a “pile of trash,” according to a Washington Post blog post Friday.
But the city claims that the spokesman, Officer Timothy Zoll, was misquoted.
“He didn’t mean to refer to the memorial as trash, he said the driver may not have known what was there and accidentally drove over what was there,” said Jeff Small, a spokesman for the city.
Reports that someone drove a car over a memorial to Brown started circulating on social media about 2 a.m. Friday. Brown supporters quickly rebuilt the memorial dedicated to the unarmed teenager killed on Aug. 9.
According to the Washington Post blog, Zoll told a reporter: “I don’t know that a crime has occurred. …But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?”
Small said Zoll remembered the conversation differently.
“He said, ‘Maybe someone thought there was a pile of trash and drove through it,’” Small said.
Zoll denies ever questioning why the Washington Post would be calling to inquire about trash in the street, Small said. He said that the city had contacted the newspaper and was seeking a correction.
Jose A. DelReal, who wrote the blog item for the Washington Post, told the Post-Dispatch that he had quoted Zoll accurately and that no one from the city had contacted him. DelReal said he had tried to reach the police after hearing about Zoll’s explanation; calls have been unanswered.
Zoll’s alleged comments quickly drew criticism on Twitter.
Two memorials occupy spots in the Canfield Green apartment complex in the neighborhood where Brown died nearly five months ago.
The memorial damaged on Friday sits in the middle of Canfield Drive, where Brown died.
Another sits near a concrete light post along Canfield Drive. That memorial, which included items such as stuffed animals and candles, burned in September.
Some claimed the fire had been intentionally set. Others suggested the burning candles could have caused the fire. Authorities said the cause of the fire was unknown and under investigation.
Small said the city was in talks with the Brown family as well as owners of the Canfield Green apartments to find a better location for the memorial so “hopefully instances like this won’t happen again.”