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Riot probe targets Brown's stepfather
01:59 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Multiple agencies investigating whether Louis Head intended to incite riot last week

Head's attorney and wife say he was hurt and angry when he spoke to crowds

After announcement that Wilson would not be indicted, Ferguson erupted in chaos

Head shouted to crowd, "Burn this motherf---er down!" and "Burn this bitch down!"

CNN  — 

To some, they’re the gut-wrenching emotional cries of a man whose stepson’s life was taken.

Others say they were dangerous words that sparked a powder keg as violent protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri last week.

But did Michael Brown’s stepfather intend to incite rioting in the St. Louis suburb?

That’s a question Ferguson police say they’re looking into.

Brown’s stepfather didn’t hold back as news of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson reached Ferguson. As throngs in front of the Ferguson Police Department listened to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement on cell phones and radios, Louis Head stepped onto a platform above the crowd and embraced his wife, Brown’s mother. He then turned to the demonstrators – some of them shouting “F— the police!” – and yelled, “Burn this motherf—er down!” and “Burn this bitch down!”

His comments drew widespread attention in the aftermath of the violence as a video of his reaction, recorded just after McCulloch’s announcement, circulated online.

No charges have been filed against Head, but police have interviewed people who know Head and who were with him November 24, the day a prosecutor announced that Wilson would not be indicted in the August 9 shooting, Police Chief Tom Jackson said Tuesday.

Head isn’t being singled out, but he’s one of the people being “looked at as part of an ongoing investigation into the activities surrounding Nov 24 pertaining to the rioting, looting and arsons,” Ferguson spokesman Jeff Small said.

Brown’s mother has defended her husband’s reaction. Last week, CNN’s Sunny Hostin asked her about accusations that her husband’s words single-handedly started rioting and fires.

“I say that that’s impossible,” Lesley McSpadden said. “These things have been going on since August 9th, when it first happened.”

Protests rocked Ferguson that day, hours after Wilson shot Brown. They grew as time passed and news of the shooting spread.

When the prosecutor finally revealed the grand jury’s long-awaited decision last week, it wasn’t long before Ferguson erupted again.

St. Louis County Police tweeted their first reports of looting less than 15 minutes later. In the hours that followed, a row of businesses on West Florissant Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the St. Louis suburb, was engulfed in flames. Police cars and vehicles at a nearby dealership were turned into fireballs. There were so many blazes that firefighters couldn’t reach them all.

Police chief: ‘We are pursuing those comments’

Police have not spoken to Head about his actions, but they intend to do so, Jackson said Tuesday, adding that multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation.

The police chief told TV and radio host Sean Hannity something similar Monday, but he didn’t classify the probe as formal.

“We are pursuing those comments, and there’s a lot of discussion going on about that right now, but I really can’t get into that at this time,” he said.

But police aren’t singling out Head, Jackson told Hannity.

“We can’t let all that happened in Ferguson and Dellwood and the community die. Everyone who is responsible for taking away people’s property, their livelihoods, their jobs, their businesses – every single one of them needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

McSpadden, who was standing next to Head when he made the comments and herself told the crowd she’d never experienced anything like this, offered some context in a CNN interview last week.

After hearing the grand jury’s decision, McSpadden said she felt like she’d been shot herself and her “emotions were raging.” Head was angry, too, she said.

“He just spoke out of anger. It’s one thing to speak, and it’s a different thing to act. He did not act. He just spoke out of anger,” she said. “When you’re that hurt and the system has did you this wrong, you may say some things as well. We’ve all spoke out of anger before.”

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