AP Interview: Browns unmoved by chief's apology

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Posted: Sep 28, 2014 4:41 AM
AP Interview: Browns unmoved by chief's apology

WASHINGTON (AP) — Instead of an apology from the police chief, the parents of Michael Brown told The Associated Press that they wanted the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot their unarmed 18-year-old son arrested and charged with murder and the police chief fired.

In a wide-ranging interview, Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden said yes when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said he wanted the officer who shot his son to be in handcuffs for the Aug. 9 death.

"An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder," Brown said.

Wilson is white; the young man, black. The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black community. Some residents and civil rights activists have said responding police officers were overly aggressive, noting their use of tear gas and surplus military vehicles and gear.

Brown called the looting that has been interspersed with the protests "disrespectful," but the "First Amendment protesting? They have that right."

"There's going to continue to be unrest until they do what should be done," McSpadden added.

Jackson released a video apology to Brown's family and the community, which is predominantly African-American in which he acknowledged that Brown's body should have been removed from the street much sooner than it was. His remains lay uncovered for more than four hours while police collected evidence.

"I don't want words, I want action," McSpadden said.

The parents, both wearing t-shirts with messages about their son, talked hesitantly about their emotions following their son's death last month. McSpadden said she feels lost and helpless, and her life will never be normal again. "I have to find a new normal," she said haltingly.

"I'm empty," Brown said quietly. "There's nothing there anymore. It's hard to fill that spot with other happiness."

Brown's parents are in the nation's capital to meet with lawmakers and lobby Congress to pass a law requiring police officers to wear cameras during their interactions with the public. They also called on the Justice Department to take over the investigation into whether there should be criminal charges against the officer.

The Justice Department is already investigating whether Brown's civil rights were violated and a county grand jury is weighing whether to indict Wilson.

"All of our eyes see the same thing, that it was wrong, an injustice," McSpadden said. "Why wouldn't they come back with an indictment?"

The parents also were invited to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where President Barack Obama spoke of the "corrosive" mistrust between local residents and law enforcement in many communities, brought on, in part, by episodes such as Brown's death.

"Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black, driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness," he said.

Attorney General Eric Holder has met the parents, who hope his coming departure won't affect the case. Holder announced his resignation Thursday. "I've got confidence in him in that he will make sure that what needs to be done is done before he exits," McSpadden said.

The parents also expressed anger at Ferguson police who wore bracelets in support of Wilson. In a letter released Friday, the Justice Department asks Jackson to "confirm our understanding" that officers in the suburban St. Louis County department won't wear "I am Darren Wilson" bracelets while on duty.

Ferguson residents complained about the black bracelets with white lettering this week at a meeting with federal officials. The Brown's family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said the bracelets give an impression that the police lack impartiality in this case.

"It lets me know how they really feel about the situation, and the wrongness that they do," McSpadden said.

Brown called their fight a fight for human rights.

"They say that this is America but we're not being treated like we're Americans. Our fight here is to just open other eyes and understand how we're feeling and try to get something done about it," he said.

Added McSpadden: "We lost our son. He's gone, and unfortunately from the hands of a police officer. But before he put it on he's another person like you and I. But he put it on and he didn't do his job properly."

Like many other fathers, Brown said he had talked to his son about how to act when confronted by police officers in the street. "But the only thing you can do is pray that they come back home safely," he said.

McSpadden said her son was taught how to respect his elders.

"Mike may have had that conversation with him as a man but I taught my son respect for a policeman, for you, for this woman, for anybody, so if he felt like he was doing nothing wrong, which I don't believe he was, why would he be in fear of him? You're not supposed to fear the police," she said.

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Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland