Police spokesman facing discipline after calling Brown memorial 'pile of trash'

Visitors look at the Michael Brown memorial in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 28.

Story highlights

  • Washington Post quotes Officer Timothy Zoll describing memorial as "pile of trash"
  • Zoll denied saying that in interview with St. Louis radio station
  • But police department says in statement he later acknowledged the remark
  • He's on unpaid leave and facing disciplinary action
The spokesman for the Ferguson, Missouri, police department is on unpaid leave and facing disciplinary action after reportedly describing the memorial honoring Michael Brown as a "pile of trash" in an interview with The Washington Post, the city has announced.
The newspaper quoted Officer Timothy Zoll after the memorial -- flowers, stuffed animals and other items in the street near where Brown was killed in a police shooting -- was destroyed on Christmas.
"I don't know that a crime has occurred," the newspaper quoted him as saying Friday. "But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?"
St. Louis radio station KMOX later reported that Zoll told its reporter he had been misquoted and actually said that the memorial might have been destroyed by a motorist unfamiliar with the area who had mistaken it for a pile of trash.
But in its Saturday night statement, the city said "the officer admitted to Department investigators that he did in fact make the remarks attributed to him, and that he misled his superiors when asked about the contents of the interview."
It's relatively unusual for government officials to comment on employee disciplinary issues, but anything involving the Michael Brown case is far from routine.
Brown died August 9 after being shot by Officer Darren Wilson in a brief encounter that provoked protests across the nation before and after a grand jury declined to bring charges in the case.