The stepfather of Michael Brown has apologized for angry comments he made after the grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who killed his stepson, but said his remarks had nothing to do with the arson and looting that ravaged Ferguson and the surrounding area.
Louis Head said Wednesday in a statement that he was full of emotion on the night of Nov. 24, when he yelled “Burn this bitch down!” in a crowd of protesters.
St. Louis County police said Tuesday they are investigating Head’s comments as part of a broader inquiry into the arson, vandalism and looting. Twelve commercial buildings were destroyed in the hours after the grand jury decision.
Head does not have a listed phone number, and there was no answer when an Associated Press reporter knocked at his listed address Wednesday.
Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Wilson, who is white, told the grand jury he fired because his life was in danger, but some witnesses said Brown, who was black and unarmed, was trying to surrender.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, was on top of a car on a Ferguson street in front of the police station, surrounded by protesters, when she heard the grand jury announcement. She began sobbing. Her husband jumped on top of the car and hugged her, then yelled out.
The street was already noisy and grew louder as Head hugged his wife. He yelled without a microphone or any amplification. Some people who were close by couldn’t hear what he said.
Still, video of the comments spread on Twitter, YouTube and other social media.
“I was so angry and full of raw emotions, as so many others were, and granted, I screamed out words that I shouldn’t have screamed in the heat of the moment,” the statement reads.
“It was wrong, and I humbly apologize to all of those who read my pain and anger as a true desire for what I want for our community.”
But Head said to it’s unfair to place blame solely on him for the violence that transpired.
“In the end, I’ve lived in this community for a long time,” he continued. “The last thing I truly wanted was to see it go up in flames. In spite of my frustration, it really hurt to see that.”
Remy Cross, a criminologist at Webster University in suburban St. Louis, said he would be surprised if Head is criminally charged, especially considering the emotional distress he was under at the time.
And Cross wondered why police would want to stir up emotions again, especially now that protests have died down to the point that police and the National Guard have scaled back their patrols. There have been no nighttime arrests at Ferguson protests since Friday.
“Given that this is such a raw situation already and given that there is already a sense of injustice at the hands of the legal system, this could be construed as provocation,” Cross said.
Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Ferguson and Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.
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