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Robbery ‘not related’ to why Michael Brown was initially stopped by Ferguson police

The unarmed black teen whose fatal shooting by police in a St. Louis suburb sparked violent protests was a suspect in a robbery moments before, but the deadly encounter was not sparked by the robbery, the city's police chief said Friday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson earlier Friday released documents alleging 18-year-old Michael Brown had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a "strong-arm" robbery shortly before he was killed.

Jackson said at an afternoon press conference that Brown and his friend were stopped Saturday "because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."

The robbery "was not related to the initial contact" between the officer and Brown, he said.

Jackson said the officer involved in the shooting -- identified as Darren Wilson -- had gone to the area after a 911 call reporting the robbery. He says a dispatcher gave a description of the suspect, and that Wilson encountered Brown a few minutes before another officer arrived.

The announcement was met with anger by community members who insisted Brown wasn't the man seen in a security camera video of the robbery.

"I am incensed," Laura Keys, 50, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I can't believe this is the tactic they are using, bringing up a robbery to make the victim look like he was the person who created this whole mess."

Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown when he was shot and killed by a police officer over the weekend, reportedly confirmed that he and Brown had taken part in the theft of cigars from a convenience store that day. But police have determined that Johnson was not involved in the robbery and will not seek charges against him, Jackson said.

Brown's uncle says if Wilson really had believed Brown was a suspect, he wouldn't have just told him to get out of the street. Either way, he says, it doesn't justify the shooting.

The attorney representing Brown's family, Benjamin Crump, said Brown's parents are "incensed" by what he calls "the old game of smoke and mirrors." He says the family was blind-sided by Friday's announcement.

Crump says "it's bad enough they assassinated him, and now they're trying to assassinate his character."

The police chief described Wilson as "a gentle, quiet man" who had been "an excellent officer." He has been on the Ferguson force for four years. Prior to that, he patrolled in the neighboring community of Jennings, Jackson said.

Wilson, who was placed on administrative after the Aug. 9 shooting, "never intended for any of this to happen," Jackson said.

Police reports released Friday under an open-records request showed that at 11:51 a.m. on the day of the shooting, authorities received a 911 call reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched to the store, arriving within three minutes. The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man toward a QuikTrip store.

Descriptions of the suspect were broadcast over the police radio. The officer did not find the suspects either on the street or at the Quik Trip, the reports said.

Separately, Wilson had been responding to a nearby call involving a sick 2-month child from 11:48 am until noon, when he left that place. A minute later, he encountered Michael Brown walking down Canfield Drive. The documents contained no description of what happened between Brown and Wilson.

Gov. Jay Nixon assigned oversight of the protests to the state Highway Patrol, stripping that authority from the St. Louis County Police Department.

He appointed Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black, to lead the police effort. Johnson, who grew up near Ferguson and commands a region that includes St. Louis County, marched alongside protesters Thursday, joined by other high-ranking brass from the Highway Patrol as well as the county department. The marchers also had a police escort.

"We're here to serve and protect," Johnson said. "We're not here to instill fear."

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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