The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri has said he was sorry for mistakes his force made following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen last month.
Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson on August 9 by a white police officer, sparking nightly protests in the small town and igniting a national debate about race relations.
“For any mistakes I have made, I take full responsibility,” Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said in an online video on Thursday. “I am truly sorry for the loss of your son,” he added, addressing Brown’s parents.
The college-bound teen was shot at least six times by police officer Darren Wilson and his body was left in the street for several hours before it was removed. “I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Thomas added. “It was just too long and I’m truly sorry for that. Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect,” he said, adding “they were simply trying to do their jobs.”
Police and protesters clashed briefly just hours after the the apology.
Violence rocked Ferguson – a St. Louis suburb of 21 000 with an African-American majority and an overwhelmingly white police department and town council – prompting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to briefly call in the National Guard to quell protests. Some demonstrators complained that police used undue force against peaceful protests, which Thomas apologised for.
“If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry, I feel responsible and I am sorry,” he said. “I’m also aware of the pain and the feeling of mistrust felt in some of the African-American community towards the police department,” he added. “It is clear we have much work to do.”
In the wake of the protests, United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced on September 18 a $4.7-million dollar programme to shore up police-community relations.
Circumstances of Brown’s death are contested, with police claiming that Brown, accused of stealing a box of cigars, was shot after a struggle with Wilson. But other witnesses say the teenager put his hands up to surrender before Wilson opened fire. Wilson has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. – AFP, Sapa-AP