ST. LOUIS (AP) — The man accused of shooting two police officers during a demonstration in Ferguson this month had nothing to do with the incident, his attorney said Wednesday, adding that police should be searching for the real shooter.
Jeffrey L. Williams, 20, is accused of shooting and wounding the officers on March 12, during an early-morning rally sparked by the resignation of Ferguson's police chief. Prosecutors allege that Williams told investigators he fired a gun but was aiming at someone else.
But his attorney, Jerryl Christmas, said Williams told him he never fired a weapon that day. Christmas said witnesses he spoke to indicated there was a shooting among demonstrators that didn't appear to target police.
"I think the real shooter is still at large, and that's what our focus should be: getting the real shooter in custody," Christmas told The Associated Press. "(Williams) never fired a weapon that night and he never told anybody he fired a weapon."
Christmas said he has not yet seen any evidence against Williams, including a police affidavit alleging that a confidential informant recorded Williams talking about the shooting. The search warrant was first obtained by Yahoo News.
One officer was shot in the face, the other in the shoulder; both are expected to recover. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch has said authorities are still trying to determine if the officers were targeted or inadvertently struck.
Williams is charged with felony assault, armed criminal action and a weapons offense. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison. He is jailed on $300,000 bond, but Christmas said he will ask a judge during a hearing next week to reduce bond to $100,000.
Williams, who is black, was arrested March 15, following an intense manhunt. Authorities have said he didn't resist, but Christmas said Williams told him that two St. Louis County officers — one black and one white — beat him in the head with a pistol, choked him, and beat him across the back. Police have denied the claims.
Ferguson has been a national focal point since a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, on Aug. 9. A grand jury in November declined to indict the former officer, Darren Wilson, who also was cleared of civil rights violations by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month.
But a separate DOJ report found widespread racial bias in Ferguson's policing and in a municipal court system, which it said was driven by profit mostly extracted from black and low-income residents. Several city officials were fired or resigned following the report.