The attorney for the man charged with shooting and wounding two police officers outside the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department said Tuesday that authorities had arrested the wrong person.
The attorney for Jeffrey Williams, 20, said that his client is innocent despite disclosures in court documents that Williams' arrest came after a police informant secretly videotaped him talking about firing the shots.
“I’m confident in what my client has told me, which is that he’s not the shooter,” St. Louis attorney Jerryl Christmas told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think they’ve got the right person in custody. I think the real perpetrator is on the loose … they’re still out there.”
Christmas said that until he can depose the confidential informant used by police, “I don’t put any merit” to officials’ claims about Williams in the new court documents.
“He reassured me that he did not fire a gun at anyone, he never told anyone that he fired a gun,” Christmas said.
Williams, who lives near Ferguson, faces life in prison if convicted of carrying out the March 12 shooting, which came as a protest was winding down outside the police station.
No one reported seeing who fired the shots, which came from a hill overlooking the station. One officer was wounded in the shoulder, the other on the side of his face. (Both officers were treated and released from the hospital on the same day.)
When officials announced Williams' arrest a few days later, they were coy about what led investigators to him.
According to court documents first obtained and published by Yahoo News on Monday, a confidential informant contacted police to say Williams had claimed involvement in the shooting during a phone conversation.
Police gave the informant a hidden camera, which the informant used to record Williams talking about the shooting as they drove around northern St. Louis County and around the site where shell casings were found, according to a police affidavit filed in support of a search warrant.
"The suspect then told the [confidential informant] that he discharged a handgun at unknown individual(s) from an area which was consistent with the location of the fired cartridge casings," the affidavit says. "Through an additional conversation, the suspect acknowledged that he remained in possession of the handgun used in the assault."
Officials found a .40-caliber handgun on the floor of a bedroom at Williams' home that matched shell casings at the scene, according to the court documents and St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch's account of the case.
Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of shooting from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. Officials said Williams fired the shots from a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am that had been spotted on video driving by the police station shortly before the shooting.
Williams' attorney, Christmas, said Williams was beaten by police when he was arrested, a claim that St. Louis County police have strongly denied.
At the news conference announcing Williams' arrest, officials said it was unclear whether he was intentionally targeting police or he was aiming at someone in the crowd over a personal dispute.
A photographer for the St. Louis American newspaper confirmed seeing Williams among the demonstrators earlier in the evening, hanging out toward the back of the action.
Activists and journalists who cover the protest movement said they did not recognize him as a regular participant in the demonstrations, which still occasionally take place in or around the city.
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