A man accused of shooting and wounding two police officers during a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department last week - while possibly aiming for someone else in a crowd of demonstrators - was arraigned Monday, according to the St. Louis County prosecutor's office.
Jeffrey Williams, 20, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of shooting from a car and three counts of armed criminal action. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Online court records showed Williams entered no plea.
Late in the day, defense attorney Jerryl Christmas suggested that police had used excessive force during the arrest. Christmas told the Associated Press that Williams had bruises on his back, shoulders and face and a knot on his head. A pastor who visited Williams in jail made similar allegations, and Williams' mug shot appeared to show at least one red mark on his cheek.
Authorities denied wrongdoing.
“The St. Louis County Police Department calls these allegations completely false,” St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said in an email to the Los Angeles Times, adding that “the arrest team had an overwhelming presence and Williams did not resist whatsoever.”
Williams' interview with detectives shortly after his arrest was recorded on video, and a nurse deemed him fit for confinement, Schellman said.
Williams, who lives near Ferguson, was arrested over the weekend and confessed to firing the shots at the protest early Thursday, officials said Sunday.
Williams told investigators he'd had an argument with someone at the demonstration and hadn't intended to shoot the officers, according to St. Louis County Prosecuting Atty. Robert McCulloch, but officials said they hadn't confirmed that claim.
A photographer for the St. Louis American newspaper confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Williams was at the scene earlier in the evening, hanging toward the back of the crowd.
Derrick Robinson, a local pastor and activist who visited Williams in jail Sunday, said in an interview with The Times on Sunday that Williams told him someone at the protest had robbed him.
Robinson drew wider attention Monday after an appearance on national television in which he said Williams had been "set up" by police and that he'd been "brutally beaten" and "coerced," according to one interview he gave on MSNBC. Robinson did not make similar remarks to The Times on Sunday.
The shooting happened at a protest in which demonstrators had gathered both to celebrate Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson's announcement Wednesday that he was stepping down and to call for the resignation of Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III.
The demonstration was winding down when about four shots rang out from a hill overlooking the police station, whizzing past demonstrators and hitting an officer in the face and an officer in the shoulder. The unidentified officers were hospitalized and released the same day, officials said.
Investigators say Williams fired the shots from a car and that a .40-caliber pistol found at his home matched shell casings left at the scene.
Several regular demonstrators and journalists who covered the movement that emerged since the Aug. 9 police shooting death of Michael Brown said they didn't recognize Williams and that he was not a main figure in the ongoing Ferguson protests.
A local government employee is also in trouble for suggesting in an interview with national media that the shooting of the two police officers was "a set-up between members of the police fraternity."
John Muhammad, the village clerk of Uplands Park, a couple miles from Ferguson, has been suspended and will be the subject of a village board meeting over remarks he made in an interview with Fox News, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Muhammad said in the interview with Fox News that police "operate just like the KKK. I think they did it to make themselves a victim when honestly the victims are black people. I think it’s just a publicity stunt, no more than that," the Post-Dispatch reported.
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