FERGUSON, Mo. (CBS St. Louis/AP) – Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson indicated that they are “pursuing” an investigation into whether comments made by Michael Brown’s stepfather the night Ferguson officer Darren Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury incited a riot.
Following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision Nov. 24, Louis Head was caught on camera yelling, “Burn this motherf***** down! Burn this bitch down!” Violent protests broke out following the decision, as dozens of buildings and businesses were looted and set fire.
Appearing on Fox News, Sean Hannity asked Jackson if Head’s comments helped incite a riot and were being pursued by law enforcement.
“We are pursuing those comments and there’s a lot of discussion going on about that right now,” Jackson told Fox News on Monday.
Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder told Fox News that it sounds like Head was trying to incite a riot.
“It sure sounds that way to a lot of folks, but that’s a decision for the authorities to make,” Kinder said.
Kinder also criticized President Barack Obama for allowing Rev. Al Sharpton into his inner circle.
“I cannot imagine any previous American president, of either party, welcoming an inciter of mobs like Rev. Sharpton into the White House, into his inner councils, for sober advice.
“It’s just wrong to have a man with Sharpton’s background … into such privileged councils.”
In terms of those who rioted, Jackson is hoping to identify each one in an effort to prosecute.
“We can’t let all that happened in Ferguson … die. Everyone who is responsible for taking away people’s property, their livelihoods, their businesses, every single one of them needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Jackson said.
Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department over the weekend after less than three years on the job. He did not receive a severance package.
Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow.”
His lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, told The Associated Press that Wilson decided to step aside after Jackson told him about the alleged threats on Saturday.
“The information we had was that there would be actions targeting the Ferguson (police) department or buildings in Ferguson related to the police department,” Bruntrager said.
He said Wilson, who had worked for the department for less than three years, and the city were already discussing an exit strategy, acknowledging that Wilson staying on as an officer there would be impossible.
Many have criticized the authorities’ handling of the case, but Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said no leadership changes were in the works. Asked if he would resign, Jackson said flatly, “no.”
Wilson has spent his career as a police officer, first in neighboring Jennings, then in Ferguson. Bruntrager said it’s all he’s ever wanted to do.
“In terms of what it (the resignation) means, it means at this point he doesn’t have a paycheck,” Bruntrager said. “He has no income so he’ll have to make some decisions pretty quickly.”
Wilson fatally shot Brown in the middle of a Ferguson street after the two scuffled inside Wilson’s police SUV. Brown’s body was left for more than four hours as police investigated and angry onlookers gathered.
Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. Wilson told the grand jury that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun.
The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate investigation of police department practices. It isn’t clear when those results will be announced.
After the grand jury’s decision was announced, 12 commercial buildings in Ferguson were destroyed by fire. There have been well over 100 arrests at St. Louis-area protests in that time.
Knowles said there hasn’t been a cost assessment of the damage in Ferguson yet, and he promised residents and businesses that the city will do all it can to seek financial help.
“We are committed to rebuilding our city,” he said.
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