Calm in Ferguson, But Fight Over Conflicting Stories Goes On

Residents of Ferguson, MO protest the death of Michael Brown on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (CNN)

Residents of Ferguson, MO protest the death of Michael Brown on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (CNN)

FERGUSON, Missouri — There were no Molotov cocktails thrown, no shootings, no fires and no tear gas on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, Thursday night and early Friday.

A sense of calm prevailed, even as protesters and police were present. But the controversy over the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer nearly two weeks ago is no closer to being settled.

Supporters of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, have used reports this week that the teen broke the cop’s eye socket during an altercation as justification for the use of deadly force.

That is not true, a source with detailed knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Wilson had a swollen face and was treated at the hospital, but his eye socket was not fractured in the reported scuffle with Brown, the source told CNN.

The shooting has prompted multiple investigations, but already — before any charges have been filed or conclusions reached — the credibility of those linked to the case is being scrutinized in the court of public opinion.

Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown’s who was walking with him at the time of the incident and a key witness, said the officer shot Brown once by the police car, and again as he ran away. According to Johnson, Brown was struck in the back and then turned around and put his arms up as the officer kept shooting.

Other witnesses have said Brown’s body jerked as if it had been hit from the back, but an autopsy shows all the entry wounds were in the front of Brown’s body.

This, together with reports that Johnson had a criminal record that including lying to police, has put his credibility in question.

The doubts over Johnson’s version may boost the version of events told by a friend of the officers — that Brown mocked the officer and charged at him before the shooting began.

Johnson’s attorney, James Williams, defended his credibility on CNN Friday morning.

“His credibility in this case has nothing to do with what he’s been charged with in the past. It has to do with what he saw here, seeing his friend get murdered, in cold blood, by a police officer,” Williams told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“We have two young men chased after to be hunted down by a police officer, one of them murdered in the street, and this becomes about their past? Or this becomes about what happened at a store? None of this is what it should be about,” Williams said.

In the event there is a criminal trial, any potential juror who hears Johnson’s version might take his past into consideration, but must remember that the FBI and police were aware of his past when they interviewed him initially, said Freeman Bosley, another of Johnson’s attorneys.

For the first time since Wilson shot Brown, the streets of Ferguson emptied early Thursday.

Protest crowds thinned from hundreds to dozens late Wednesday, then disappeared. Thunderstorms may have doused their numbers.

“I hope that people do calm down and just continue it to be peaceful. I hope the outsiders leave and let the real individuals who are really trying to make a difference remain so that it can stay peaceful, so some type of resolution and change can happen,” said Charles Davis, owner of a local burger bar.

Seven people were arrested Thursday night, including three who were not from the area, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said Friday.

By comparison, 47 arrests were made two nights ago.

“The change is related to a lot of hard work by the citizens of his community, the citizens of this state, and the men and women of law enforcement who have been out here in a dedicated effort to make this community safe,” Johnson said.

In a move that reflected what appeared to be increasing calm, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin withdrawing from the city. Troops had been sent there Monday to protect the police command center, which officials said had come under threat of attack.

“We’re going to have a systematic drawdown. We’re working with the commanders to do that, but we’re going to make sure we keep safety there,” the governor told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday.

“As we see folks getting calmer, fewer arrests, fewer problems here … we’re going to draw down off that (mission),” Nixon said. “We don’t need the same force of strength.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke Thursday about his visit to Ferguson to check in on the federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s shooting.

“This attorney general and this Department of Justice stand with the people of Ferguson,” he told reporters in Washington.

Holder has assigned scores of FBI agents and DoJ investigators to look into Brown’s August 9 death in the suburban St. Louis city.

Police have said Brown and Wilson struggled over the officer’s gun; witnesses who have spoken publicly say the 18-year-old had his hands in the air when he was shot.

A St. Louis County grand jury began hearing testimony in the case Wednesday, but it’s not expected to make a decision on charges against Wilson before mid-October.

While Holder said agents have made “significant progress” in their investigation, he said it will still take time to complete and asked for the community’s support.

Holder met with Brown’s family not long after the teen’s mother viewed her son’s bullet-riddled body at a morgue for the first time. He heard from a woman who said her brother died in an encounter with Ferguson police in 2011. And he spoke to the community of a festering mutual mistrust between law enforcement and many communities in the United States.

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Thursday that Holder’s visit made a difference.

“Because, you can read a person,” she said. “And when you’re looking at them and they’re looking at you in your eyes, it puts some trust back there,” she said.

His trip was not universally well-received, however.

Activist Akbar Muhammed gave the attorney general low grades for the trip.

“We thank him for coming, but he gets a D-minus,” Muhammed said.

“He came to have a community meeting, and in that community meeting he didn’t meet with any of us who were out in the street,” he said.

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