Ferguson shooting: Suspect beaten by police, says lawyer

  • Reuters, Ferguson, Missouri
  • Updated: Mar 17, 2015 10:40 IST

A lawyer for the man accused of wounding two policemen during a protest rally outside the Ferguson, Missouri, police headquarters last week said on Monday his client was beaten when he was taken into custody, an allegation police called "completely false."

Jeffrey L. Williams, 20, had bruising across his back, on both shoulders and his neck, and a welt on his head and a mark on his face, attorney Jerryl Christmas said, adding that he met with him for two hours on Monday but could not take pictures.

"He was beat up by the police," Christmas said in a telephone interview. "He was beaten when he was taken into custody."

Williams had appeared briefly in court Monday morning without counsel and did not enter a plea. He is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, a class A felony that calls for 10-30 years, or up to life in prison.

The shooting was the latest violent incident in months of demonstrations in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, after a white police officer fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown during a confrontation in August last year.

In announcing Williams's arrest on Sunday, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch told reporters Williams had admitted firing the shots that wounded the officers early Thursday and told authorities he was not shooting at police.

"With regard to the allegations that Jeffrey Williams was 'beaten' by police, the St. Louis County police department calls these allegations completely false," spokesman Brian Schellman said in a statement.

Schellman said Williams was taken immediately to St. Louis County Police headquarters after his arrest, interviewed by detectives on video and audio, booked and evaluated by a nurse as every inmate is, to determine if he is fit to be confined.

But Williams' attorney Christmas said Williams was taken into custody on a probation warrant and did not know he was being arrested until he was taken for questioning.

Police had called the shooting an "ambush" of the officers, who were standing side by side, by a gunman embedded with protesters, but McCulloch said on Sunday that Williams may have been shooting at someone else.

Several long-time activists have said they did not recognize or know Williams as a protester.

The shooting of the officers followed a flurry of resignations and protests in the week after the U.S. justice department released a damning report accusing Ferguson of racially biased policing.

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