Picture emerges of officer in Ferguson shooting

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A white police officer whose shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old ignited
racial upheaval in a St. Louis suburb has been characterized as either an aggressor whose deadly gunfire
constituted a daylight execution or a law enforcer wrongly maligned for just doing his job.
An incomplete picture of Texas-born Ferguson officer Darren Wilson has emerged since Aug. 9, 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
contacted by The Associated Press refusing to reveal his whereabouts or discuss the shooting or Wilson’s
But snippets of his life have emerged. His parents were married only four years before divorcing in 1989
in Texas. Court records say he divorced last November. His mother, a convicted forger and alleged con
artist, died 12 years ago. Wilson got a commendation in February from the Ferguson police force, four
years into his job there.
An online fundraising drive on Wilson’s behalf as of Thursday had drawn more than $77,000 in donations
for the tall, slender and blond-haired cop. And a longtime friend — former high school classmate and
hockey buddy Jake Shepard — publicly has come to Wilson’s defense, insisting in interviews that the shy
Wilson would never maliciously take a life and fears possible retribution.
Having talked to Wilson since the shooting, Shepard said, "I think he’s kind of struggling a little
bit, but I think he’s doing OK."
"He didn’t really want to talk much about it," Shepard, also 28, said of Brown’s death.
"But I can tell you for sure it was not racially motivated. He’s not the type of person to harbor
any hate for anybody. He was always nice, respectable and well-mannered, a gentleman. He doesn’t have
anything bad to say about anybody, ever. He’s very genuine."
Similar depictions of Wilson, who has been on paid administrative leave since Brown’s death, have come
from his boss, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.
During a Ferguson City Council meeting in February, Wilson got special recognition from Jackson for what
the chief said then was his role in responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle, then struggling with
the driver and detaining him for arrest until help arrived. Jackson said the suspect was preparing a
large quantity of marijuana for sale. His proclamation in hand, according a video of the meeting
obtained Tuesday by the AP, Wilson returned to his seat with a broad grin.
"He was a gentle, quiet man," Jackson told reporters last Friday while publicly identifying
Wilson, a four-year veteran of the department after spending two policing in nearby Jennings, as the
officer who shot Brown, noting that Wilson has no prior disciplinary record. Calling Wilson
"distinguished" and "a gentleman," Jackson added that "he is, he has been, an
excellent officer."
Online court records show that Wilson’s mother — Tonya Durso, also known as Tonya Harris — 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. Durso was 35 when she died in 2002, and Wilson was placed under the guardianship of Tyler
Harris until a St. Charles County judge dissolved that in mid-2004.
Wilson, who has Missouri hunting and fishing licenses, did not answer the AP’s knock Tuesday on his door
at his brick, ranch-style home in Missouri’s Crestwood, a largely white St. Louis suburb some 18 miles
southwest of Ferguson.
Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
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