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Cop who killed Michael Brown started career at unit disbanded for racial tension
The police officer who shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson two weeks ago learned his trade on a force that was disbanded over racial tensions, it has emerged.
Darren Wilson shot black teenager Michael Brown dead on 9 August, sparking weeks of protests and charges that the town’s police force is racist.
Now the Washington Post reports that Wilson’s first job as a police officer was with a nearby force in the city of Jennings that was scrapped over racial tensions following a series of controversial incidents.
In one, a Jennings officer fired his gun at a mother fleeing in her car with a child in the back seat.
In another, an officer beat a woman on her own front porch.
The city council concluded that the force had been discredited with the local population and dismissed every officer.
An incomplete picture of Texas-born Ferguson officer Darren Wilson has emerged since the shooting, when authorities say the white six-year police veteran killed Michael Brown during a confrontation in the predominantly black city where all but three of the 53 police officers are white.
The Brown family’s attorneys have labeled Wilson as a murderer, though the investigation continues and no charges have been filed. The 28-year-old officer has gone underground since the shooting, with relatives refusing to reveal his whereabouts or discuss the shooting or Wilson’s background.
But snippets of his life have emerged. Court records show Wilson divorced last November.
His parents were married only four years before divorcing in 1989 in Texas.
His mother Tonya Durso, also known as Tonya Harris, went on to marry twice more and died at the age of 35 when Wilson was just 16.
Online court records show that she pleaded guilty in 2001 to a dozen felony stealing and forgery counts in Missouri’s St. Charles County just west of St. Louis and was sentenced to five years on probation, with the judge suspending a five-year prison sentence.
After her death, Wilson was placed under the guardianship of Durso’s second husband Tyler Harris until a St. Charles County judge dissolved that in mid-2004.
According to the Washington Post, after completing police academy training, Wilson was employed as a rookie officer in Jennings, a city of 14,000 citizens, 89 per cent of whom were African-American and largely working class.
The 45-strong police force had just one or two black officers.
City council member Rodney Epps told the Washington Post that ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ was an incident in which an officer shot a woman who’d been stopped for a traffic violation.
‘She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous,’ he said.
Complaints and lawsuits piled up against the force for using unnecessary force.