A video captures Michael Brown's stepfather urging crowd to burn down Ferguson
Louis Head is heard saying, "Burn this motherf---er down" and "Burn this bitch down" before violence erupted
Brown's father has called for peaceful protests in a PSA and in a family statement
Michael Brown’s stepfather consoled the dead teen’s distraught mother after Monday’s controversial grand jury announcement and then turned to the crowd of demonstrators, saying, “Burn this motherf—er down” and “Burn this bitch down,” according to a New York Times video.
The comments by Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, came shortly before an eruption of rage by some protesters over the decision not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
A row of businesses on West Florissant Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the St. Louis suburb, was engulfed in flames Monday night. Police cars and vehicles at a nearby dealership were turned into fireballs. There were so many blazes that firefighters couldn’t reach every one.
In The New York Times video, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, is visible in the crowd Monday night in Ferguson.
McSpadden speaks to the crowd briefly, saying she has lived in the community her whole life and never experienced anything like this.
“I don’t do nothing to nobody,” she said, crying uncontrollably and placing her hands over her face. Head comforts her before his outburst.
Shouts of “F— the police” can be heard from the crowd.
CNN is trying to reach Head for comment.
His words were markedly different than those of Michael Brown Sr., who recorded a public service announcement last week, saying that “destroying property is not the answer.”
And Monday night the family released a written statement that read, in part: “We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction. Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French told CNN Tuesday that he was nearby when Head made the statements.
“I think he was expressing a sentiment that a lot of folks in that crowd felt and when he said those words, the mood did change and things got a little bit out of control,” French said. “There is such anger and emotion around this case.”
But French questioned what he said was the “incredibly poor choice” by authorities to announce the grand jury’s decision at night. He said there were no police officers or National Guardsmen patrolling one of the hardest-hit stretches on West Florissant Avenue.
At a news conference Tuesday, an attorney for the Brown family, Benjamin Crump, said the Times video captured the couple’s “desperation and frustration” over the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson.
Crump said videotaped remarks by Michael Brown’s stepfather were inappropriate. But Crump said not to condemn him for being human.
“God forbid your child was killed … and then they get that just devastating announcement in the manner it was announced, and somebody put a camera in your face,” he said. “What would be your immediate reaction?”
The family “understands we all have a responsibility to protect the community,” Crump said.
“Nobody is going to condone violence,” he said.
Ahead of the announcement about the decision, the Brown family had urged people not to react with violence and destruction. Their attorney said the violence that took place on the streets of Ferguson overnight was “completely inappropriate.”
Brown’s parents were expected to speak at Tuesday’s news conference but later decided not to do so.
Crump said Brown Sr. “doesn’t want to misspeak because of such emotions that are going through him that will later be used against him.”