What’s going on with the fundraising campaigns for Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson?

September 2, 2014

T-shirts that say “Officer Darren Wilson. I stand by you” on sale at a rally in St. Louis last month. (Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Associated Press)

Who is responsible for the fundraising efforts that helped bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown last month in Ferguson, Mo.?

It’s hard to say.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that two online campaigns — “Support Officer Darren Wilson” and “Support Officer Wilson” — have collectively raised more than $400,000 for Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot the unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb.

One of those campaigns might have been started by an unidentified teenage girl. Maybe. It’s somewhat unclear.

According to the Times:

The first page, “Support Officer Darren Wilson,” had raised the most concern because its creator was anonymous and had not received certified status from GoFundMe.

Missouri state Rep. Jeffrey Roorda, a Democrat who is helping to handle Wilson’s fundraising efforts, said the creator of that page is a teenage girl from the St. Louis area.

“I think she thought she’d raise a few hundred dollars, and she ended up raising a few hundred thousand dollars,” Roorda said in a phone interview Monday night. After her page got popular, Roorda said, the young woman started receiving “serious threats.”

Roorda said he doesn’t know how old she is or whether she’s a minor; he described her as a “teenage girl,” a “young girl.”

The Times checked with the page’s anonymous administrator, who responded: “I can tell you I have not worked with or spoken with Rep. Roorda. The information you have been given is false.” Both campaigns have stalled as tax attorneys figure out how to distribute the funds, according to the Times.

Shield of Hope, the charitable wing of the Fraternal Order of Police union, operates the second GoFundMe page for Wilson, but the group did not immediately return a Post e-mail seeking comment.

“If we find money was donated to the Shield of Hope’s GoFundMe and it can’t be used for the express purpose it was intended for, we will return it,” Roorda told The Riverfront Times.

Roorda told The Post in a phone interview that Shield of Hope’s status as a charity has complicated the fundraising process.

“Because the FOP’s charitable arm is the one that launched that web page, we’re now unsure if a charity can raise money to pay for legal defense,” Roorda said.

Wilson shot and killed Brown on Aug. 9, and the 18-year-old’s body remained on Canfield Drive for hours. Protests and police clashes followed; funeral services for Brown were held last week.

When asked about the Support Officer Wilson campaign, and whether a teenager would be allowed to create a fundraiser, GoFundMe spokesperson Kelsea Little said … maybe.

“If anyone under 18 years of age wishes to use GoFundMe, they need to have their parents’ consent, and a parent is required to withdraw any funds collected, on the child’s behalf,” Little said in an e-mail.

When asked about the organizer of the Support Officer Wilson drive, Little said that “in order to protect their privacy, we cannot discuss anything specific about them or their campaign.”

(You can read more about GoFundMe’s policies here and its terms and conditions here.)

Wilson’s supporters have also sold T-shirts and gathered at rallies for the officer, who has not been seen in public or issued any statements since his name was released by authorities.

“Just hold tight for a few days and we’ll have the answers,” Roorda said, when asked what supporters should do if they wanted to donate to Wilson funds now. “We’re not going to stop helping raise money for officer Wilson’s legal defense. it’s a benefit of membership … and officer Wilson is no different from any other member.”

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.
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