Over the weekend, Jeffrey Williams, a 20-year-old man, was charged with shooting two police officers at a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department last week. Williams, who had reportedly attended the protest prior to the shooting, admitted to firing the shots that struck two officers from neighboring counties, but claims he wasn't aiming at the police.
Why Would Williams Fire at Police?
Williams, who was on probation for receiving stolen goods, "has acknowledged firing the shots,” according to St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch. However, Williams' ensuing statements to police contradict a prevailing narrative that police officers had been specifically targeted in the shooting.
Thursday's shooting had drawn sharp condemnations from across the spectrum, including the parents of Michael Brown, who issued a statement saying that they “reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement.” Hours after the shooting, at a press conference outside the hospital where the injured officers were being treated, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters "these shots were directed exactly at my police officers.”
But on Sunday, McCulloch conceded that the motive for the shooting might have been a personal dispute between Williams and some protesters in the crowd. “It is possible that he was firing at someone other than the police,” McCulloch said, adding that he also wasn't "100 percent sure" that there was a dispute either.
Was it Revenge for a Robbery?
What the motive for the shooting remains unclear, some are pointing to statements made by Bishop Derrick Robinson, a fixture at the Ferguson protests, who met with Williams in jail on Sunday. According to Robinson, Williams claims he was robbed earlier in the evening at the protest and returned to the scene to fire his gun in the air out of frustration. Robinson added that Williams had expressed remorse for the shooting.
“The only reason I am sharing this is to say that this had nothing to do with protesters,” Robinson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The protests did not cause this shooting.”
Was Williams a Protester?
While the investigation develops, Ferguson protesters are speaking out against Williams, whom they say was not part of the ongoing protests, despite reportedly living nearby. In an interview with The New York Times, one protestor who frequently documents the protests, said that Williams was not “a regular member of the protest community in St. Louis.”
“I don't know him at all,” another protestor told The Los Angeles Times. “I have more hours on the ground than anyone. This guy is a lone wolf.”