A Ferguson Police Department spokesman was suspended for calling the memorial marking where unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed “a pile of trash” in an interview with the Washington Post. Police Officer Tim Zoll initially said the Post misquoted him but then admitted making the statement after Ferguson officials opened an investigation and confronted him, KMOX, St. Louis, reported.
Brown, 18, was shot and killed in August by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. The incident sparked violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, and the demonstrations’ intensity reignited last month when a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson. A memorial of candles, teddy bears and flowers have piled up on Canfield Drive, the Ferguson street where Brown was killed, since the incident. The memorial was run over on Christmas.
â€” deray mckesson (@deray) December 26, 2014
While witnesses said they saw the car intentionally run over the memorial, Zoll told the Post it wasn’t clear a crime had occurred. He also appeared to suggest the Post was blowing the incident out of proportion, and his characterization of the memorial landed him in hot water.
“I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” Zoll told the Post Friday. “But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?”
Zoll later told KMOX the Post “misquoted and misunderstood him." But Ferguson officials began an investigation, and Zoll admitted to using those words and misleading the media by denying it. The city of Ferguson said in a statement Saturday it does not share Zoll’s opinion of the memorial.
“The city of Ferguson wants to emphasize that negative remarks about the Michael Brown memorial do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department and are in direct contradiction to the efforts of City officials to relocate the memorial to a more secure location,” the statement read.
Zoll was placed on unpaid leave, “effective immediately,” the city said. The Ferguson Police Department spokesman will also face a disciplinary hearing.