Toronto Star

Ferguson cop on leave after insult

Police spokesman confesses to calling Michael Brown tribute a ‘pile of trash’ to reporter


A Ferguson police spokesman has been put on unpaid leave after initially denying, then admitting that he referred to a memorial for Michael Brown as a “pile of trash” to a Washington Post reporter.

Post reporter Jose A. DelReal called Officer Timothy Zoll, the Ferguson Police Department’s public relations officer, after some residents claimed a motorist had intentiona­lly driven a car through a memorial to the 18year-old, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9.

“I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” Zoll told DelReal on Friday. “But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?”

The memorial — a collection of flowers, stuffed animals, balloons and other objects — took shape on Canfield Rd., where Brown was shot.

Zoll initially denied making the statement, but later admitted to the remarks and to misleading his superiors when confronted, the city said in a statement Saturday night.

Zoll is being placed on unpaid leave while disciplina­ry proceeding­s begin, according to the statement.

“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 city’s statement reads.

The department noted that, even after the officer’s initial denial, it “continued the investigat­ion until the truth was discovered.”

Before Saturday’s statement, Jeff Small, a spokesman for the city, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Zoll had been misquoted and denied questionin­g why the Washington Post reporter made the call.

DelReal stuck by his story, tweeting Friday afternoon: “The department told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the quote is a misunderst­anding. The quote is accurate.”

After the original memorial was apparently destroyed by a motorist, residents of the neighbourh­ood quickly cleaned up the debris scattered across the road and rebuilt it.

Michael Brown’s death was the first of several involving black males and white police officers that have inflamed social consciousn­ess in the U.S. in recent months.

In New York, Eric Garner died on July 17 after he was arrested with a chokehold by a police officer. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” have become a slogan for protesters in the aftermath.

In Cleveland, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was holding a pellet gun, was fatally shot on Nov. 21. His death has been ruled a homicide.

On Dec. 20, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a troubled man with a long criminal record, gunned down two New York City police officers after warning on social media that he was going to avenge Eric Garner’s death. He shot himself soon after.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Ferguson residents had complained of a motorist driving through a memorial to slain teen Michael Brown.
GETTY IMAGES Ferguson residents had complained of a motorist driving through a memorial to slain teen Michael Brown.

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