The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday apologized to the family of Michael Brown, nearly seven weeks after their son was fatally shot by an officer in the St. Louis suburb.
“No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” Police Chief Thomas Jackson said in a videotaped apology that aired on CNN and released by a public relations firm working with the city. “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street.”
Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. He was unarmed at the time of the fatal shooting, and it took about four hours for his body to be removed from Canfield Drive.
“The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day,” Jackson said. “But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that. Please know that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, to the African American community, or the people of Canfield. They were simply trying to do their jobs.”
When asked about the four-hour delay at a forum last month, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said that authorities were trying to avoid the appearance of the cover-up or an improper investigation.
“It was a crime scene that had to be investigated by a third party,” said Knowles, who told the crowd that he had not yet “had an opportunity” to apologize to Brown’s family.
A phone message left for a Ferguson spokesman was not immediately returned, nor was an email sent Thursday morning.
“We feel that the apology comes at a time when the trust and the confidence in the chief has already reached an all-time and irreversible low,” attorney Anthony Gray said in a statement on behalf of the Brown family. “And it is nearly impossible to measure any reach of his apology at this time. Most observers, we believe, are already locked into their opinions about the handling of the shooting of this unarmed teen. Dynamite, much less an apology, will do little to move anyone off their opinions at this point.”
Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson Township, called the video a “good first step,” but not one that would end calls for Jackson to step down.
“Is it too little too late? Yes,” she said. “Are we still mad? Yes. Are we still asking him to resign? Yes. But with this, we can breathe a little bit.”
Jackson told CNN he wouldn’t resign.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have initially called for that and then changed their mind after having meetings and discussions about moving forward,” he said. “Realistically, I’m going to stay here and see this through. This is mine, and I’m taking ownership of it.”
The death of Brown sparked unrest in Ferguson, where protesters gathered and were met with police in riot gear. Those tactics were widely criticized in the weeks that followed, and local law enforcement agencies are now under review for their policies and procedures.
“I do want to say to any peaceful protester who did not feel that I did enough to protect their constitutional right to protest, I am sorry for that,” Jackson said. “The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry, I feel responsible and I am sorry.”
[This post has been updated multiple times.]