TORONTO – Online “hacktivist” group Anonymous released the name and photographs of the man it believes to be the officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri over the weekend.
The revelation comes the morning after protests over the 18-year-old’s death turned violent in the streets of the St. Louis suburb, with police using tear gas and smoke bombs against the angry crowds.
Anonymous took to Twitter Thursday morning with the name. The group has since been threatening to release more information about the alleged officer, including the person’s address and police documents, unless the St. Louis County PD confirmed the officer’s identity.
Shortly after 11a.m. EST, Anonymous tweeted a photo of the alleged officer.
However, St. Louis County PD responded to the allegations in a tweet stating the individual is not an officer with Ferguson Police or St. Louis County PD.
Global News is not disclosing any names until police confirm the identity of the officer.
Brown was shot multiple times after an officer encountered him and another man on the street Saturday. According to police, the officer was assaulted by one of the men before the shooting; however they have not specified whether Brown was the one involved in the scuffle.
The teenager’s body was left on the sidewalk for hours after the shooting.
Police have since been accused of racism, sparking violent protests and have faced intense criticism from community members seeking answers.
The case has drawn comparisons to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012.
Anonymous began “Operation Ferguson” on Sunday and has since been working to release details about the case. On Wednesday, the group released information from police dispatch calls obtained from the day of the shooting.
The hackers then posted hours of tape on YouTube, but it’s unclear if the audio is authentic.
Anonymous has been criticised for identifying the wrong suspect before
Anonymous’ involvement with the case may draw some criticism, as the group has previously released incorrect information about alleged suspects in previous cases.
After taking on the case of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after relentless bullying, the group released the identity of a man alleged to have been involved in online stalking and taunting of the teen. That accusation turned out to be wrong.
The RCMP cleared the man of any connections to Todd’s case.
After the incident, a representative from Anonymous told the Toronto Star that the group wasn’t sorry for outing the wrong man, based on the fact that he was facing sex assault charges at the time his identity was released.
Legal experts weighed in: “If you believe in the rule of law, the most harmful effect is that you may have the wrong person, as appears to be the case in this instance. More fundamentally than that, you’re basically substituting the judgment of a mob or a couple of angry individuals for the judgment of a court,” Neil Boyd, law professor at Simon Fraser University, told the Star.
In this case, Ferguson Police said death threats have prompted them to withhold the name of the officer who killed Brown.
Anonymous has noted in its tweets that it’s been cautious in releasing the alleged officer’s information.
Before publicly releasing the name of the person it believes to be responsible, the group tweeted, “We have a name for the officer that murdered #MikeBrown. We just need a bit of time be absolutely sure.”
Anonymous is threatening to release the address of the alleged officer at 1p.m. EST Thursday, if police do not respond to their demands.
The group’s main Twitter account (@TheAnonMessage) was suspended just after 12:30p.m. EST, but continue to tweet from a secondary account (@TheAnonMessage2).
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