FERGUSON, Missouri — Darren Wilson was just one of 53 officers in a small-town police department until his encounter with a unarmed teenager on a street in a St. Louis suburb.
Authorities, citing death threats, had refused to release Wilson’s name since he fatally shot Michael Brown last Saturday.
On Friday, Police Chief Thomas Jackson disclosed the identity of the man whose actions sparked sometimes violent protests and thrust the quiet community of Ferguson, Missouri, population 22,400, into the national spotlight.
It was not known whether Wilson, an officer for six years, has been placed on modified assignment. Jackson told reporters that the officer had faced no disciplinary action during his time on the job.
Jackson, before speaking to reporters, told CNN’s Don Lemon that the officer was “devastated” by what had happened.
“This is his community,” Jackson said. “He never wanted any of this to happen.”
Jackson said the officer had responded to a call about a sick person before receiving a call about a convenience store robbery shortly before noon the day of the shooting.
Wilson had received via radio a description of the robbery suspect when he encountered Brown on the street, Jackson said.
Authorities had not previously mentioned reports of a robbery in the area.
Brown, an African-American teenager who was days away from starting college, was shot to death in what police said was a struggle for the officer’s gun. No one has disputed that Brown was unarmed. But witnesses said the 18-year-old victim was shot as he tried to distance himself and raised his hands into the air.
The shooting sparked protests and isolated looting incidents, and police response with rubber bullets and tear gas, and arrested dozens of people. Many in the community demanded to know the name of the officer involved in the shooting.
Residents complained about long-simmering tensions between the mostly African-American community and predominantly white police force.
Two-thirds of Ferguson’s population is black. The police chief is white. Only three African-Americans are part of the 53-person department.
The mayor is also white, and so are five of the six city council members.