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Wed, 13 Aug 2014 21:40:12 +0000
(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Ferguson, Missouri police chief Tom Jackson on Wednesday defended his department's use of rubber bullets and tear gas to quell protesters in the city over the past three nights.
Unrest has roiled the city of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer Saturday afternoon.
The police department has been criticized for its heavily-armed response to protesters, some of whom looted and vandalized stores on Sunday night.
"There are complaints about the response from some people, but to me, nobody got hurt seriously, and I’m happy about that. I’m happy that nobody got hurt," Jackson said at a press conference Wednesday.
Earlier, he told ABC News the police had only used tear gas and rubber bullets when protests had turned violent on recent nights.
Jackson also defended the use of riot gear being used by the officers as necessary to protect police from what he said was a trend around the country of increasingly dangerous street weapons.
"None of that was military equipment. All the SWAT teams have big vans with that. People are using bombs now, pipe bombs and so forth," he said. No bombs have been used in Ferguson.
Earlier Wednesday, Jackson asked protesters to remain peaceful during their gatherings and to disperse before nightfall, but said there was no curfew in place.
"We ask that any residents wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner," a statement from the police department said. "We further ask that all those wishing to demonstrate or assemble to disperse well before the evening hours to ensure the safety of the participants."
Despite the chief's urging that gatherings disperse before sundown, another vigil will be held for Brown's supporters Wednesday at 7 p.m. Before that, Jackson said he plans to march with civil rights leaders as a show of support to them.
The shooting death of Brown has angered the town, with many residents demanding a full, transparent investigation into why an officer fired multiple shots at an unarmed teenager. Brown's family, the NAACP, and the Rev. Al Sharpton have all demanded the police identify the officer involved.
Jackson was adamant, however, that he would not release the name of the officer who shot Brown due to concerns for the officer's safety. Even if Brown's family began to take legal steps to have the name made public, "there's the appeal process," Jackson told ABC.
Brown's parents' attorney, Benjamin Crump, told ABC News Wednesday that the family was still deciding whether to sue the department to force the release of the officer's name.
Jackson said Wednesday that the name of a different officer had been circulated on social media as the identity of the shooter, and Jackson had to move that officer and his family out of Ferguson to protect them. Jackson himself has received death threats, including a "nice young woman's voice" telling him "I want you to die."
The FBI is investigating Brown’s death. The shooting happened following a fight with the officer, police said. Witnesses say the officer shot after Brown raised his hands.
The officer who shot Brown has been placed on administrative leave.
Jackson said Wednesday that St. Louis Count police were waiting until they had spoken to all of the witnesses of the incident before releasing any details about the shooting, the number of bullets fired and where on the body they hit.
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