St. Louis County's prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch and Police Chief Jon Belmar addressed a courtyard of reporters Sunday afternoon regarding an arrest made in the Ferguson police officers shooting on Thursday night. McCulloch heavily stressed that it was the public coming forward in the face of a $3,000 reward that led investigators to 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams of North County. He is currently being held on a $300,000 cash bail and has been charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, and three counts of armed criminal action. The first degree assault counts are Class A felonies that each carry up to a lifetime imprisonment sentence. The singular count of firing a weapon from a vehicle is a Class B felony.
Williams, who is on probation in St Louis County for receiving stolen property, had a warrant out for his arrest for neglecting to report to his probation officer for seven months. According to McCulloch, Williams says the officers he shot — and Williams admitted to having fired the shots — were not the intended victims of his gunfire but rather, they were meant for a person or people in the area with whom he'd had a dispute. McCulloch and investigators say they aren't completely buying it, though they concede that it may be possible. McCulloch said at the press conference:
I wouldn't say he [Williams] wasn't targeting police but evidence supports he may have been shooting at someone else. Once the investigation is complete, they may be able to disprove a lot.
The prosecuting attorney repeatedly maintained skepticism while also vehemently restating just how important it was that the public had reached out to help in this investigation. That support was a key point in McCulloch's plea for the public to provide additional video and information, as this investigation is ongoing. Responding to a question regarding video evidence to support Williams' arrest, McCulloch had this to say:
There's a lot of video out there and I hope there's a lot more from the various organizations that are here and if there is anything that may show that, we'd certainly appreciate it being provided to law enforcement.
McCulloch also said that the weapon recovered, a 40mm handgun, had casings that matched bullets found at the scene and that Williams had acknowledged firing the gun. After a strained but brief Q&A in which McCulloch repeatedly attempted to leave the podium but then stayed to answer more and more questions, Belmar then addressed reporters in an even briefer appearance. According to Belmar, the officers who were shot are getting better and are aware of Williams' arrest. Belmar stressed how there was support from other police departments around the country and said that the response had been overwhelming.
Despite lasting nearly half an hour, Sunday's press conference provided many redundancies. At nearly every juncture, McCulloch repeated that it was the public coming forward that proved pivotal in the investigation while also maintaining that there was little he could reveal, a point that appeared to only emphasize his flustered demeanor. He was unable to pinpoint exactly where Williams hailed from, only noting that he was from North County and lived "near" Ferguson, and he even needed clarification on the caliber of handgun used in the shooting. The press conference was unpolished, and McCulloch's and Belmar's visible discomfort did little to help their case.
Although McCulloch acknowledged that Williams was one of the demonstrators protesting earlier in the evening, McCulloch says that protests were already over and that many had already dispersed before the shooting took place. Already, protestors are saying that they have no idea who Williams is nor have they seen him demonstrating.
Images: Getty Images (3)