Nearly seven weeks after the shooting death of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., the city’s police chief issued an apology to Brown’s family Thursday, saying he was “deeply sorry” for their loss.
“No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson said in a statement he read on camera. “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son.”
“For any mistakes I have made, I take full responsibility,” Jackson said in the video, which was released by the Devin James Group, a public relations firm that has been working with the city of Ferguson after the shooting.
Jackson also apologized for investigators' allowing Brown’s body to lie in the street for hours after the shooting, saying they meant no disrespect. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence … but it was just too long,” Jackson said.
Anthony Gray, an attorney for the Brown family, told The Times that Jackson's apology "comes at a time when the trust and confidence in the chief has reached an irreversible low."
Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., are in Washington to ask the Justice Department to take over the investigation of the case, Gray said, and have not yet heard the apology.
"Most observers, I believe, are locked into their opinions about the handling of the shooting," Gray said in an email. "Despite this, we remain prayerful that peace, calm, and justice will prevail."
The police chief acknowledged the “pain and the feeling of mistrust” felt by the African American community toward police following the shooting.
“The city belongs to all of us, and we all are part of this community,” Jackson said. “It’s clear that we have much work to do.”
Jackson has been the target of widespread criticism for the way the department handled the shooting, including his initial decision not to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, and the police response to protests that roiled the area afterward.
An attorney for Brown’s family accused Jackson of character assassination when Ferguson police released an incident report identifying Brown as a suspect in a strong-arm robbery that happened just minutes before he was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson.
The Ferguson Police Department is now part of investigations opened by the FBI and civil rights attorneys from the Justice Department.
Jackson said the events have “sent shockwaves” through the community and across the nation.
“Overnight, I went from being a small-town police chief to being a part of a conversation about racism, equality and the role of policing,” he said. “As chief of police, and as a resident, I want to be a part of that conversation. I also want to be part of the solution.”
Jackson and the Ferguson Police Department, along with St. Louis County Police, have been named in a federal lawsuit brought by six Missouri residents who allege law enforcement officials used excessive force during the street protests that followed Brown’s death.
Jackson addressed the protests Thursday, saying, “To any peaceful protester who did not feel that I did enough to protect their constitutional right to protest, I am sorry for that. The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect.”
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