- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Ferguson Police Department spokesman has been put on unpaid leave after referring to a memorial for Michael Brown as a “pile of trash” to a reporter.

Officer Timothy Zoll, the department’s public relations officer, was asked by Washington Post reporter Jose A. DelReal about residents’ claims that a motorist had intentionally driven a car through the Canfield Road memorial for Brown, who was shot to death in August by a Ferguson police officer.

“I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” Officer Zoll said Friday, according to Mr. DelReal. “But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?”

When initially confronted about the comments, Officer Zoll claimed he was misquoted. The city initially stood behind him but retreated in a one-page statement issued at the weekend, though it did not name the officer.

Following a department investigation into his remarks, the officer admitted to investigators that he did make the comments and had “misled” superiors about it, Ferguson city officials said in the statement.

The unpaid leave is effective immediately while disciplinary proceedings begin, the statement said.

“The City of Ferguson wants to emphasize that negative remarks about the Michael Brown memorial do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department and are in direct contradiction to the efforts of city officials to relocate the memorial to a more secure location,” the statement read.

Tensions continued in Missouri over the weekend as a notable Ferguson protester was charged with arson related to demonstrations over another fatal police shooting in a nearby Missouri town.

Joshua Williams, 19, has been charged with setting fire to a convenience store in neighboring Berkeley and was being held on $30,000 bond.

News cameras and store surveillance caught a man trying to set ablaze a pile of wood Wednesday outside a QuikTrip where protesters were demonstrating against the previous day’s killing of Antonio Martin. According to law enforcement, Mr. Williams confessed on videotape.

Mr. Williams has been photographed marching arm-in-arm with author Cornel West in anti-Ferguson protests and has been quoted in articles by multiple news outlets, including USA Today and Bloomberg News.

At the weekend, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a “small group” of people protested Mr. Williams’ arrest and said they didn’t believe either his purported confession or the supporting video footage

“Josh is one of the young activists, and all of us have taken close to him. We got to know his heart, and he got to know ours,” Bishop Derrick Robinson of Kingdom Destiny Fellowship International told the Post-Dispatch. “He’s a great kid, an educated kid, a child who knows what he wants and is very active in the community.”

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