In what critics are calling a gross misrepresentation of facts, Ferguson, Missouri’s police chief is under fire for claiming in a recent interview that it took hours to remove 18-year-old Michael Brown‘s body from the street after he was shot “because of hostile fire against our officers,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
Interim Police Chief Alan “Al” Eickhoff appeared to suggest in an interview published Sunday in the Times that police were under fire and couldn’t approach the body, a claim roundly disputed by witnesses.
The statement by the chief who was not in office when the shooting occurred on Aug. 9, 2014, reignited a contentious debate over how the shooting happened and why Brown’s body still lay in the street about 4.5 hours after he was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, the report notes.
“The reason he was there for so long was because of hostile fire against our officers. We could not get to Michael Brown’s body,” Eickhoff said.
Gunfire was indeed reported by police at the time, and both the U.S. Justice Department and a local grand jury also received reports of shots fired in the vicinity after the shooting. But some Ferguson residents question those reports, and whether the atmosphere at the scene affected the investigation.
But Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman who arrived at the scene about three hours after the shooting, said he “didn’t hear any gunfire,” the report says.
“What people couldn’t understand was how you could have the SWAT vehicle, but not the coroner,” French said. “… There was just a complete lack of compassion or empathy from government.”
The Times notes that while Chief Eickhoff declined further comment this week, the city’s Mayor James Knowles III said at least part of the delay was prompted by an effort to preserve evidence in an officer-involved shooting that was sure to draw scrutiny.