Citing death threats, police won’t identify officer in Michael Brown shooting

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Ferguson, Missouri (CNN) — It’s been four days since a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed African-American teenagerĀ Michael Brown, and the public still does not know the name of the person who pulled the trigger.

Despite cries of a cover-up, there’s good reason for the silence, local officials say. Since the shooting Saturday, police have received death threats against the officer, and it has spread from there, Mayor James W. Knowles said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“Hackers have tried to find personal information and display it online on social media, asking people to target myself, council members, the police chief,” he said. “The county police chief’s own home was put on Instagram, and people (were) asked to go there and assault him.”

The threats and continued protests, including demonstrations Tuesday and Wednesday, highlight heightened tensions in the St. Louis suburb and nationally over the shooting of Brown, an 18-year-old Ferguson resident killed in what police say was a dangerous struggle and what witnesses say seemed a brazen act of aggression by the officer.

Ferguson’s police chief told CNN that the officer who shot Brown had been injured in the scuffle, and the Police Department issued a statement saying that “Ferguson mourns the loss of Michael Brown’s life” and that it had “heard the community’s cries for justice.”

At the same time, the department asked protesters to restrict their gatherings to daylight hours.

“Unfortunately, those who wish to co-opt peaceful protests and turn them into violent demonstrations have been able to do so over the past several days during the evening hours,” the department said.

Later, the police chief added: “We understand the anger; we understand that people want answers. We understand that we’ve got a problem, but we’re just asking people to be peaceful.”

A call for transparency

On Tuesday, the lawyer representing Brown’s family blasted the decision not to release the officer’s name, suggesting authorities were protecting one of their own rather than following standard procedures.

“That doesn’t give the community confidence. That doesn’t make it transparent,” attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters. “And remember, we’ve got a long way to go before this community starts to believe that the police are going to give them all the answers and not try to sweep it under the rug.”

Crump was one of the attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was killed in a 2012 altercation with Florida man George Zimmerman.

He said police should have released the officer’s name 72 hours after the shooting. If police are going to ask residents of Ferguson to obey the law, he said, “then it’s got to work both ways.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said he doesn’t yet know when investigators will release the officer’s name but said authorities aren’t skirting any laws.

“The prosecuting attorney and the St. Louis County police chief agree that this is the prudent step to take under the circumstances,” he said.

“We started getting death threats against him and his family, and although that’s not most of the people, we took these things seriously,” Jackson said.

Someone claiming to be part of the shadowy Internet organization Anonymous also posted a video to YouTube on Tuesday promising to hack city websites and release information on Ferguson police unless the identity of the officer involved was released.

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