A confidential informant wearing a hidden video camera recorded accused gunman Jeffrey L. Williams admitting that he fired the shots that seriously wounded two police officers during a recent demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., according to search warrants obtained by Yahoo News.
Williams was arrested March 15 and charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. An officer from the St. Louis County Police Department was struck in the shoulder. A member of the nearby Webster Groves Police Department was hit below his right eye. Both are now recovering at home.
At a news conference announcing the arrest, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that Williams’ confession was key to bringing the charges but declined to give details of how the admission was obtained.
Late Monday, St. Louis defense attorney Jerryl T. Christmas, maintained that Williams is innocent.
“My client reaffirmed to me that he was not the shooter in this case,” Christmas said in an email. “The real perpetrator is still at large and that should be our focus.”
Christmas told Yahoo News last week that Williams said “he never fired a weapon” and was recanting his confession. Christmas claimed that officers used excessive force — even pistol-whipped — Williams during the arrest, allegations the St. Louis County Police called false.
Details of the confidential informant and hidden-camera confession come from warrants that investigators obtained to search a car that Williams was allegedly driving the night of the shooting and his girlfriend’s apartment.
According to an affidavit supporting the warrant, a Ferguson detective received a phone call from a confidential informant on March 14 saying that Williams was claiming to be the shooter that police were actively seeking. The informant is not named in the affidavit, but investigators note that their anonymous source “has proven reliable through previous law enforcement investigations.”
Williams was in an older-model red Pontiac Grand Am just after midnight when he fired three shots in the direction of the Ferguson Police Department, according to charges filed. Two of the three shots struck officers who were standing in a police riot line. The shots, police said, were believed to have been fired from a spot about 125 yards away, on a side street across from the police department.
An intense three-day manhunt after the shooting yielded no suspects and little for investigators to go on. “I cannot tell you at this time that an arrest is imminent,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said 42 hours into the search.
But detectives caught a break when the informant stepped forward March 14. The source was outfitted with a hidden camera and sent to the apartment of Williams’ girlfriend. According to the affidavit, Williams went outside and got into the front passenger seat of a car driven by the informant.
The pair drove throughout North St. Louis County while discussing the shooting. They ultimately went to Ferguson and the location where the shots were fired.
“The suspect then told the [confidential source] that he discharged a handgun at unknown individual(s) from an area which was consistent with the location of the fired cartridge casings,” the affidavit alleges.
In an email, Christmas told Yahoo News “we are unaware of a [confidential informant] and recorded statement.”
“I can't comment on any of this information until I see the tape and have an opportunity to depose the informant,” Christmas said.
Williams, according to the warrant, also admitted to the police source that he still had the .40-caliber handgun used in the shooting.
The confidential informant drove Williams back to his girlfriend’s apartment. The informant left, and a surveillance team set up to watch the apartment, which is located about 4 miles east of the Ferguson Police Department.
About 10:30 p.m. on March 15, Williams walked out of the apartment and toward the same red Pontiac Grand Am he had allegedly driven the night of the shooting. Officers moved in and took Williams into custody. Williams, who was already wanted for violating his probation in an unrelated theft case, was arrested without incident, according to a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department.
Williams, according to the warrant, had left the apartment's front door slightly ajar. Detectives approached the apartment, and Williams’ pregnant girlfriend came from downstairs to meet the officers.
“Based on the circumstances of the incident, particularly the violent nature of the assault, the detectives initiated a protective sweep of the residence for any subjects who may have remained inside,” the warrant states.
No others were in the apartment, but officers found a Hi-Point .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol on the floor in a front bedroom. According to the warrant, investigators also recovered three gun magazines; .40, .38 and .32-caliber bullets; a blue plastic mask; cell phones; and various pieces of clothing.
Detectives collected DNA and fingerprints from the Pontiac, which is owned by Williams' girlfriend. According to the warrant, she provided a “voluntary and thorough statement” saying that Williams was using the car on the night of the shooting.
Williams remains in the St. Louis County jail in lieu of $300,000 bail. A hearing in the case is scheduled for March 31, the day after Williams’ 21st birthday.
(This story has been updated since it originally published.)
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).