National Guard troops line up in front of Ferguson Police Department along South Florissant Road in November 2014 after Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by then-police officer Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer in August. (Photo by Eric Thayer for The Washington Post)

A court filing introduced late last year in a civil lawsuit against former Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson includes a sworn admission from Wilson that he and other Ferguson officers used the n-word to describe black people, but an attorney for Wilson said Monday that his client only used the word when repeating witness accounts given to him during police investigations.

The court filing, added to the civil suit docket on Dec. 28, includes 173 “admissions” from Wilson in response to declarative statements from attorneys for the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old man who Wilson shot and killed during a confrontation in August 2014.

Asked if he has made a racist remark while on-duty as an officer, Wilson responded through his attorney that “I have repeated a racist remark made by someone else, but I have not made a racist remark against another individual while on duty as a police officer.”

The next two statements address whether Wilson had ever used the word n-word to refer to African Americans and if he has heard fellow Ferguson police officers doing so. In both cases, Wilson replied through his attorney, “Admitted.”


Wilson responded to the declarative statements through his attorneys. (Redactions added.)

“Officer Wilson did admit in discovery responses that he used the n-word and has heard former officer(s) use the n-word on at least one occasion but, he did so while repeating/reporting what a victim, witness or suspect etc., relayed to him while conducting an investigation or preparing a report,” Greg Kloeppel, Wilson’s attorney, said in an email. “He never used the n-word to refer to an African American in a racist or derogatory manner and he never repeated a racist joke while on duty.”

Asked why Wilson clarified under oath that he had made racist remarks only when repeating others but did not offer similar clarification when responding about his use of the n-word, Kloeppel said that “responses to requests for admissions are not invitations to tell a story or give a substantial narrative.”

Other than the details of his and other officers’ use of the racist slur and remarks, the admissions offer little new insight into the shooting death of Brown, which prompted nationwide protests. Wilson encountered Brown on the afternoon of Aug. 9, 2014, as Brown and another man walked down Canfield Drive. According to official accounts and witness statements, Wilson told the men to get out of the street, and then a physical interaction between Brown and Wilson ensued. Wilson and some witnesses have claimed Brown punched Wilson through the window of the vehicle. Other witnesses, including Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, have said Wilson grabbed Brown through the window of the officer’s vehicle.

Among additional pieces of information, Wilson says that at some point he instructed Brown to “get the f— back.” Wilson also denies grabbing Brown by the teen’s clothing, but admits that at some point he reached through the car window and grabbed Brown by the arm.

Wilson then fired his weapon, striking Brown in the hand and prompting Brown to run away. Wilson said that Brown then doubled back to charge him, prompting him to shoot several more times. Witnesses, and supporters of the Brown family, however, have alleged that Brown was surrendering to Wilson when the fatal shots were fired.

Wilson’s admissions — and denials of some allegations — were included in a late December court filing in the ongoing wrongful death lawsuit that Michael Brown’s parents filed in April 2015 against Wilson, the City of Ferguson, former Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson, and the St. Louis County Police Department.

Lawyers for the City of Ferguson and Jackson did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Lawyers for the Brown family declined to comment, saying that they have been instructed by the court not to publicly discuss the case.

In November 2014, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson for any crimes related to the shooting.

In an amended complaint filed in July 2016, Brown’s parents allege that Wilson “unjustifiably shot and killed (Brown) using an unnecessary and unreasonable amount of force in violation of (his) constitutionally guaranteed right to life.”

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