Gawker, a popular gossip website, is asking its readers for information on the identity of the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday.
“We believe Brown’s family, and the public at large, have the right to know the name of the man who killed their son,” wrote Gawker’s Jason Parham. “For this reason, we’re asking readers who know the identity of the officer to share it with us, either below this post or over email. If we can confirm a name, we will publish it ourselves. We are looking for legitimate information and tips, not jokes or false names.”
Brown’s shooting has sparked outrage among many who believe that Brown was targeted because he is black. The Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments have released little information on the shooting. Demonstrations have been met with heavy police presence and have devolved into looting.
Ferguson police initially planned to release the name of the officer on Tuesday, within 72-hours of the shooting. But chief Thomas Jackson decided against the release, saying that “the value of releasing the name is far outweighed by the risk of harm to the officer and his family.”
But Gawker disagrees.
“We want to publish the officer’s name because we believe that transparency is the price of power, and that trust is earned and not demanded,” wrote Parham. “The people of Ferguson have been asked to trust the chief’s decision not to release the officer’s name, but why should they? The Ferguson police department has not earned the trust of the citizens in whose name it operates and with whose power it is invested.”
MSNBC host Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump, an attorney hired by Brown’s family, have also said that the officer’s name should be published.
“They want the name of the police officer who shot their son in broad daylight to be released just so that would be one step to transparency,” Crump said, speaking on behalf of the Brown family. (RELATED: Al Sharpton Calls For Peace And Federal Investigation Of Black Teen’s Shooting Death)
“The local authorities have put themselves in a position, hiding names, not being transparent, where people will not trust anything but an objective investigation.”
Twitter has already been awash with rumors of the identity of Brown’s shooter.
On Tuesday, Anonymous, a collective of activists and hackers, issued a clarion call for the officer’s name. Though it was unsuccessful in that endeavor, an offshoot of the group published what it claimed was the home address and phone number of St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar on Twitter. A picture of Belmar and his wife was also published. The user also targeted Belmar’s daughter, writing, “Jon Belmar, if you don’t release the officer’s name, we’re releasing your daughter’s info. You have one hour.”
The collective did not follow through with the threat.
Accounts of the events leading up to Brown’s shooting are mixed. Witnesses and a friend walking with Brown claim that he was surrendering to the officer before being shot. The officer said that Brown assaulted him and tried to grab his weapon. Belmar said Sunday that a shot was fired in the officer’s squad car and that Brown was shot 35-feet away from the vehicle.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that “a fulsome review” of the shooting should be conducted. The FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations.