CLAYTON, Mo. – A man accused of shooting two officers last week in Ferguson was not targeting police or aiming at demonstrators at a late-night protest, his attorney said Monday as he countered an earlier police description of the crime.
Defense attorney Jerryl Christmas also suggested that St. Louis County police may have used excessive force when arresting the suspect, Jeffrey Williams, saying his client had bruises on his back, shoulders and face and a knot on his head.
Police spokesman Brian Schellman called the lawyer’s allegations “completely false,” adding that Williams was seen by a nurse when booked into the county jail, standard procedure for all incoming inmates.
“The nurse released Williams as fit for confinement,” he said.
Williams is accused of shooting the two officers Thursday outside Ferguson’s police station, which has been the scene of protests since last summer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Williams, 20, appeared in court Monday morning, one day after his arrest on charges of felony assault, armed criminal action and a weapons offense. His case was continued until March 31. Christmas did not appear at the brief hearing and said he first spoke with his client late Monday afternoon.
“This wasn’t any type of ambush shooting,” Christmas said in an interview with the AP, countering an earlier description by St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar of the shooting Thursday outside Ferguson police headquarters. “Those officers were shot accidentally.”
Williams also told investigators he was not targeting law enforcement and had been aiming instead at someone with whom he had a dispute, authorities said. But that assertion was met with skepticism by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch.
Christmas said he wasn’t aware of any details regarding a possible dispute that could have preceded the shooting.
But Ferguson activist Derrick Robinson said Sunday that Williams told him during a jail visit that he had been robbed earlier on the day of the shooting and returned to the protest zone to retaliate. On Monday, Robinson referred inquiries to Christmas.
The shooting happened as a demonstration began to break up. The protest followed the resignation of city police Chief Tom Jackson in the wake of a Justice Department report that found widespread racial bias in the city’s police practices.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.