A 20-year-old man has been arrested in the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo. According to reports, however, after confessing to the shooting, he is now recanting his story.
Jeffery Williams is being charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, three counts of armed criminal action and firing a weapon from a vehicle. He was arrested late Saturday night.
Williams was reportedly part of a demonstration and told police that he was firing at someone he had a dispute with and did not intend to hit the officers.
Reports indicate that Williams told his lawyer this week that he never fired a weapon. He said he was pistol-whipped before being questioned by detectives. Injuries can be seen in Williams’ mug shot, which shows visible bruises on his face and neck.
“I think under those circumstances, he would have said anything,” Williams’ lawyer, Jerryl T. Christmas, said. “Anytime someone is questioned without counsel and then I see that kind of bruising, then I’m suspicious about any statements that he may have voluntarily given.”
Law enforcement officials deny the abuse allegation but did not explain the cause of Williams’ bruises.
Several people have said the shooting was a setup by police. North Country Village, Mo., City Manager John Muhammad said in a live television interview that he believes police played a role in the shooting.
“I think it was a complete setup,” Muhammad said. “I think it was a setup between members of the police fraternity—what I like to call them. I think they 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.”
As a result of his statements, Muhammad was suspended from his job and could be fired.
Protest organizer the Rev. Derrick Robinson said in another television interview that he also believes the shooting was a setup.
“I really believe he was set up,” Robinson declared. “I really believe that.”
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said, “I think it’s a miracle that we haven’t had any instances similar to this over the summer and fall, [given] the amount of gunfire. We could have buried two officers.”
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting of the officers and vowed to offer any resources needed to help in the investigation.
“Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months,” Holder said. “We wish these injured officers a full and speedy recovery. We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department’s full range of investigative resources.”
The incident was caught on amateur video, with two shots being heard and someone screaming.
The shooting happened on the day Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson stepped down after a Department of Justice investigation that determined law enforcement in the Ferguson treated Blacks unfairly.
Ferguson City Manager John Shaw also resigned because of findings in the DOJ report, along with Ronald Brockmeyer, the municipal judge in Ferguson. The DOJ investigation is a result of the 2014 police shooting of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown. Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, was not indicted at the state or federal level.