In the days since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., one missing bit of information has dominated much of the conversation and fueled much of the frustration: The name of the officer who shot Brown is still not publicly known. Police and other law enforcement officials have repeatedly declined to identify the officer, despite having said they would do so earlier in the week.
At least two names have surfaced online, but both of them have been called incorrect by police.
On Thursday, a name released by the hacking collective Anonymous began circulating, but St. Louis County Police said that the name was inaccurate. The same kind of thing happened Wednesday, as another name began floating around and gaining traction. Ferguson police said that that name was also inaccurate, telling The Post that these reports were false.
A spokesman with the St. Louis County Police was critical of the group Anonymous for releasing the information.
“People really need to harshly judge the accuracy of this group, given that they’ve now given false information about several important things,” Sgt. Colby Dolly said on Thursday.
Dolly said that authorities were trying to locate the person identified by Anonymous on Thursday to warn him.
Much of the friction spoke to the dual realities at work in the wake of the shooting. Ferguson police had planned to release the officer’s name, but they reversed course on Tuesday due to threats they said they had received. But in the era of social media, rumors can spread quickly in the absence of confirmed facts, allowing untruths to gain momentum and to reach people who may take them as fact.
In addition, for residents still shaken by the shooting and the days of confrontations that have followed, the failure to identify the officer – along with other details, including the number of times Brown was shot — feeds their frustration.
Anonymous, which promoted transparency and openness in the past, has also released accurate information about the shooting case in recent days. Audio recordings that appeared to capture a police dispatcher’s confusion in the wake of Brown’s death, released by Anonymous on Wednesday, were confirmed as authentic by county police.