(Reuters) - After weeks of heavy criticism and calls for his ouster, the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, issued a video apology on Thursday to the parents of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot to death by a white police officer last month.
“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you are feeling,” Chief Tom Jackson said in the video. “I am truly sorry for the loss of your son.”
Jackson spoke directly into a camera and read from a script in the video, which was released by a public relations firm hired by the city. He addressed Brown’s parents, as well as people whom he called “peaceful protesters.”
Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
Ferguson, a mostly black community of 21,000, has seen weeks of racially charged protests and bursts of violence following Brown’s death. Many have called for Jackson to be fired for the way he has handled the aftermath of Brown’s killing.
Brown and a friend had been walking down a street in a residential area when Wilson asked them to move out of the street. An altercation ensued. Wilson shot Brown several times and the teen died in the middle of the road.
Brown’s body lay on the pavement for several hours in the afternoon sun, a fact that fueled outrage in the community and nationally as pictures of his body were widely circulated on social media.
Many protesters have said police left Brown’s body in the street for so long to intimidate the black community.
In the video, Jackson said “no disrespect” was intended, and the removal of the body was delayed so officers could gather evidence.
“But it was just too long, and I am truly sorry for that,” said Jackson, standing in front of an American flag and wearing not his uniform, but a short-sleeved polo shirt.
Jackson also apologized for the treatment of protesters. He and other officials were sued last month for $40 million by a group alleging civil rights violations through arrests and police assaults with rubber bullets and tear gas.
“The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect,” he said. “If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry I feel responsible and I’m sorry.”
Protesters have pledged continued civil unrest until Wilson is arrested and charged in Brown’s death. A grand jury in St. Louis County is examining the case, as is the U.S. Department of Justice.
Another violent protest erupted in Ferguson late Tuesday night. Two officers suffered minor injuries and five people were arrested in the protest which lasted into Wednesday.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s parents, declined to comment on Jackson’s apology. Brown’s parents were in Washington on Thursday calling for federal legislation requiring police officers to wear body cameras to document their activities.
Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham