I made a promise last week to blog readers, that I'd revisit the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson if there was a major development in the case, and now there is. Earlier today, St. Louis County officials came back with some good news, that a 20-year-man has been arrested. The authorities say they're checking out the initial story told by Jeffrey Williams -- on probation for receiving stolen property -- which is that he wasn't shooting at police officers but at someone in a crowd of demonstrators Wednesday night that he had a beef with. Officials aren't sure they buy that explanation. Me neither. The demonstrators had already been separated from the line of police officers at the time, which would make Williams the world's worst shot.
The citizens of Ferguson were just as disgusted at a man who was firing at police officers as the rest of America, and St. Louis district attorney Robert McCulloch -- whose handling of last August's Mike Brown shooting and the ensuing protests has been, um, controversial -- couldn't stress enough that Williams couldn't have been captured without the help of the people. "The case was developed with information that was provided by the public," McCulloch told a news conference.
Also, the overwhelming initial evidence -- and this is a developing story, so things could certainly change -- is that shooter Williams is certainly not a regular in the protests that have been going on, with various levels of intensity, in the streets of Ferguson for more than 200 days. That's been backed up throughout the day by activists and journalists alike. Here's one summary:
We don't know him," said Tony Rice, the founder of Ground Level Support, who has been protesting since August.
After naming three young male protesters who were regularly at the demonstrations, Rice told HuffPost, "I don't think there is a male 20-years-old that regularly protest outside of them."
"I think I can speak for the protester community in saying we don't know him," said Rice.
After the press conference, press swarmed Alicia Street when she helped source the first picture of Williams. Street, 29, has been actively involved in protest since August as well and says she was unfamiliar with Williams as well.
"I have never seen him at a protest. I cannot recall that I even seen him that night. We know a lot of people out there, we really do. I even showed pictures to other regular protesters and they said they didn't know him," Street told HuffPost.
It is possible, though, that Williams, for whatever reason, was on the scene earlier on the night in question. A bishop and activist named Derrick Robinson who spoke to the alleged gunman said Williams -- by his own admission -- was never previously a protester but he was there Wednesday. It was enough for prosecutor McCulloch -- who shredded any credibility when he openly admitted to putting a lying witness before the grand jury -- to publicly declare Williams "a protester." The court of public opinion is so biased that facts barely matter, do they? The Usual Suspects of talking heads already decided last week that citizens who denounced the shootings and turned Williams in are somehow his co-conspirators.
Something else that's troubling. Targeting police officers is repugnant and an assault on community values. Here in Philadelphia, our hearts are still torn out over the senseless murder of Officer Robert Wilson III. But if this bozo in Missouri wasn't targeting officers, as he claims, the public's outrage meter should still be turned to "high." Firing a gun into any crowd of innocent people simply has no place in a civil society. The shooting of the two Ferguson officers, just like the murder of Officer Wilson, were, at their very core...gun crimes. But that's a conversation we decided to stop having in 2013.