Michael Brown shooting witness charged with interfering with an arrest

Michael Brown shooting witness charged with interfering with an arrest
Two memorials to Michael Brownstandnear where the unarmed, black 18-year-old was shot and killed last August by white Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson. (Jim Salter / Associated Press)

The man who was with Michael Brown when he was killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer was charged Thursday with interfering with an arrest in a separate incident in St. Louis.

The incident comes two weeks after lawyers for Dorian Johnson, 23, electronically filed a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson alleging that his civil rights had been violated during the attempted arrest of Brown last August, and that he suffered emotional distress over Brown's death.


St. Louis metropolitan police arrested Johnson on Wednesday afternoon while responding to a report of a disturbance involving "a group of individuals ... possibly armed with guns or knives" in a North St. Louis neighborhood, according to police and court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

As officers moved in to investigate, police said, Johnson yelled at one officer who was attempting to arrest two people, one of whom police suspected of having a weapon because of a "bulge in his waistband." Johnson then struggled with another officer, who "was able to take him to the ground and get handcuffs on" Johnson, an officer wrote in a court document.

Johnson's attorney, James M. Williams, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

An unidentified 17-year-old boy was also arrested for being "wanted" in another jurisdiction, and 21-year-old Demonte Johnson -- reportedly Dorian Johnson's brother -- was arrested after trying to prevent an officer from patting down the 17-year-old for weapons, according to court records and a police report.

Demonte Johnson was charged with interfering with an arrest and for third-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor, for "grabbing" an officer's arm, according to the documents. Partially redacted court records show the brothers live on the same block, if not the same address, in St. Louis.

Dorian Johnson filed a civil lawsuit April 23 against the city of Ferguson, former Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in connection with Brown's death in that northern St. Louis suburb on Aug. 9.

Johnson was with Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, when Wilson stopped the pair for walking in the street in a residential neighborhood, which Johnson's lawsuit argues was an illegal stop.

Wilson fatally shot Brown in the street after a struggle, prompting months of protests and questions over what really happened during the encounter.

Johnson's early account to the media got prominent attention, in which he portrayed Wilson as the aggressor and said Wilson reached out of the car and grabbed Brown by the neck.

Wilson denied wrongdoing, saying Brown attacked him at the car, and then charged at the officer after running away, prompting Wilson to fatally shoot him.

A St. Louis County grand jury and federal investigators eventually decided that the evidence didn't support charging Wilson with a crime. Federal investigators said claims that Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him were inconsistent and unreliable.

Johnson's lawsuit argues that Wilson's shooting of Brown was unjustified, echoing a similar lawsuit filed against the city by Brown's family, also on April 23. As support, the lawsuit cites Justice Department findings published in March that Ferguson police racially profiled the city's black residents. Ferguson's population is 67% black.

"Plaintiff suffered apprehension of bodily harm, was frightened and otherwise caused to fear imminent bodily harm by Defendant's conduct," says Johnson's lawsuit, which also says he "suffered psychological injury, severe emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages, living expenses, incurred additional expenses, and any other losses to be proven at trial."

Johnson's lawsuit requests damages, attorneys' fees and a court order barring the city "from engaging in the unconstitutional behavior of unlawful detainment, assault and excessive use of force."


A spokesman for the city of Ferguson said there would be no comment on the lawsuits by Johnson and Brown's family.

Johnson faced no charges stemming from the August encounter between Brown and Wilson and was not accused of wrongdoing when Brown, shortly before that encounter, allegedly stole cigarillos from a nearby convenience store as Johnson watched.

Follow @MattDPearce for national news