A suspected drug dealer alleges that the Ferguson, Mo., policeman who killed Michael Brown used excessive force against him last year in an arrest that earned him commendation from the police department, the man’s attorney told Yahoo News.
Officer Darren Wilson arrested Christopher Brooks on Feb. 28, 2013, after catching him and another man allegedly packaging marijuana to sell while sitting in a car in Brooks’ grandmother’s driveway.
Yahoo News obtained the full police report from Brooks’ lawyer, Nick Zotos, after the Ferguson department refused to release an un-redacted version.
According to the report, the men exited the car but Brooks wouldn’t give up his keys so the officer could search the locked PT Cruiser.
“Brooks slapped my hand away,” Wilson wrote. “Brooks was consistently yelling for his cousin, who was now on the front porch, to help him and asking him to ‘get me.’ ”
The officer took control of Brooks’ wrist and arm, but he “was resisting all control and refused to follow all commands given,” Wilson wrote. The officer called for backup because he said the situation was “growing increasing hostile.”
Zotos, a veteran St. Louis defense attorney, says his client remembers it a different way.
“The officer was physical with him, roughed him up,” Zotos told Yahoo News. “[Brooks] would not consent to a search of his vehicle, so [Wilson] forcibly took his keys from him.”
Wilson became a national figure after he fatally shot Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in broad daylight in the middle of a residential street, on Aug. 9.
On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department launched a widespread probe of the predominantly white Ferguson Police Department. In a statement, the City of Ferguson said it welcomes the investigation, which will look for patterns of discrimination and review how officers use force, search and arrest suspects, and treat inmates at the city jail.
The officer, his family nor his attorney has spoken publicly about Brown’s death. Wilson is on paid leave while state and federal investigations are underway.
Ferguson police have revealed few details about the shooting or Wilson's time with the department. It wasn’t until Yahoo News discovered a post on Wilson’s father’s Facebook page that the department acknowledged the officer had earned a commendation earlier this year. Officials have repeatedly declined to offer few details about the achievement outside of what Chief Thomas Jackson said in presenting the award.
“In recognition of outstanding police work while investigating a suspicious vehicle call,” Jackson told a packed city council chamber seven months ago. “Acting alone you struggled with one subject and was able to gain control of the subject and his car keys until assistance arrived.”
Through Missouri's open records laws, Yahoo News obtained a heavily-edited police report of an arrest which the department said gave rise to Wilson's award. The suspect's name is redacted, but on Friday Zotos confirmed that Brooks' arrest was the impetus for the accolade.
“I can't explain what the commendation was about,” Zotos said. “That he fell into a couple of guys and he found some weed? Ok. I guess you give out commendations for doing your job?”
Neither Chief Jackson nor a department spokesperson returned an email seeking comment for this story.
Details from Zotos' unredacted copy of the report such as the arrest location and report number match Yahoo News' incomplete version. After three weeks of repeated requests, Ferguson refuses to identify the person Wilson arrested to on Feb. 28, 2013.
Zotos said even his copy that he has had for months left him questioning the events of the case. Wilson begins his narrative of the offense by simply stating he went to the arrest location after receiving a call about 1:20 p.m.
“There's never an explanation on where the call comes from, if in fact there is a call,” Zotos said. “It's not attributed to anybody — FBI, a 911 call, a neighborhood watch call. Anybody in the neighborhood would obviously know the car belongs at that place.”
Brooks, 28, was initially arrested on four misdemeanor and three felony charges related to assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, failing to obey orders and possessing drugs with intent to distribute. However, he has only been prosecuted on the distribution charge.
Zotos said his client never received summonses related to the charges of disobeying and resisting Wilson.
“Which is kind of a surprise, because it is something Ferguson would do to get the fine money if they could,” said Zotos, adding that the statute of limitations has now expired.
Brooks faces five to 15 years if convicted on the intent to distribute charge. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for later this month, but Zotos said he doesn’t expect Wilson — who went into hiding when Brown’s death sparked riots — to appear.
“He won't appear and I'll request to dismiss for failure to prosecute,” Zotos said.
Messages left for Brooks were not returned. His attorney said he has asked him not to speak publicly about Wilson.
“I want the dismissal to go smoothly and be done,” said Zotos, who also advised Brooks not to file a complaint with authorities until his criminal case is resolved.
A search of public records reveals Brooks has prior offenses for driving without a license and no auto insurance.
“Traffic arrests to me are inconsequential,” Zotos said. “He has no prior criminal record.”
According to the full police report, Brooks was interviewed by a separate detective the day after his arrest and admitted to having approximately six or seven ounces of marijuana. “He sells marijuana for $5 to $10 a bag to help support his family,” the detective wrote Brooks told him.
Angela Jackson, who lives across the street from Brooks’ grandmother, said everyone in the neighborhood knows him as a good person. She had heard of his arrest, but was surprised to learn Wilson was the officer and earned an award.
“Are you serious?” Jackson said. “I mean, Sir, you are really serious? Oh my goodness. This is too much going on in Ferguson.”
Follow Jason Sickles on Twitter (@jasonsickles).