The New York Times published information about the address of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Monday in a move that has generated controversy. Tensions are running high in Ferguson, Missouri, as the world awaits a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision on whether to indict the white policeman for the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown.
Wilson received death threats after he was identified as the officer who shot Brown, and as community members and activists plan to protest if he is not indicted, the location of his home could potentially endanger him, his new wife, and his property if the protests result in violence, some of his defenders say. Wilson’s home address is a matter of public record, and it has been published in numerous media reports beginning in August.
But printing his street name in the nation’s most influential newspaper on the day the grand jury is expected to hand up a decision on the indictment could reignite interest in -- and awareness of -- the location, and some critics worry that it could result in protesters descending on his home. Slate even went a step further than the Times, publishing an article featuring a photo of the modest, red-brick house on Monday.
A number of Twitter users -- some of whom have identified themselves as planning to protest the grand jury decision -- have tweeted the location of Wilson’s home as they gear up for rallies. The house number was not printed in the Times, but the street in the St. Louis suburb of Crestwood where it sits is only about two blocks long, and the house number can be easily located via online sources using only the street name and Wilson’s name.
The Times reported that Wilson and his new wife, fellow Ferguson Police Officer Barbara Spradling, have avoided the home for months. “They have scarcely been seen there since Mr. Brown was killed on Aug. 9,” the Times reported in the Monday article that included the street name. “Neighbors said that within a few days of the shooting, Officer Wilson and Officer Spradling abruptly left their home.”
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Some observers see no foul in news outlets publishing the address, saying that it is easily available elsewhere, and referencing the fact that the couple has reportedly not been seen there recently.
“Plus, exact address for Officer Wilson is listed, w/real estate record cross references, on at least 4 websites. So why anger @ksdknews?” Twitter user @charlesjaco1 tweeted amid a controversy about a news station mentioning his home’s location in August.
During that controversy, some people decried the decision to print Wilson’s address.
The grand jury is expected to reveal its decision Monday night, sources told the Washington Post.