CLAYTON, Mo. – A Missouri judge on Tuesday refused to reduce the bond of a 20-year-old man accused of shooting and wounding two police officers during a Ferguson protest, despite an attorney's insistence that the man was beaten by police into wrongly confessing.
Jeffrey Williams, shackled at the wrists and ankles, said nothing during a 10-minute hearing in which his attorney, Jerryl Christmas, failed to sway a St. Louis County judge to cut Williams' $300,000 cash bond to one that would require him to pay only $10,000.
Christmas argued that the jobless Williams has no history of violence, has a girlfriend who is eight months pregnant and deserved a bond akin to cases where the shooting victims survive. He suggested that a $300,000 bond was more traditional in homicide cases.
But prosecutor Bart Calhoun countered that Williams — charged with felony assault, armed criminal action and a weapons offense — poses a public risk if freed. Calhoun said the gunfire early March 12 was "a drive-by shooting that put a great number of citizens at risk."
The shooting occurred during a protest sparked by the resignation of Ferguson's police chief. Both officers, who are expected to recover, were monitoring protests outside the city's police station, which has been a nexus of unrest since a white Ferguson officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, last summer.
Calhoun noted that when Williams was arrested for the shooting, he was being sought on a warrant alleging he violated probation terms related to his use of a stolen credit card.
"Clearly, I don't think the current bond is unreasonable," the prosecutor told the judge.
Prosecutors allege that Williams told investigators he fired a gun but was aiming at someone else. Christmas said his client has recanted that story, told him he never shot a weapon that day and only confessed after being roughed up by police.
On Tuesday, Calhoun told the judge "the evidence in this case is overwhelming," adding that Williams admitted being the gunman "to several people after his arrest."
"He said he never fired a weapon. He didn't have a weapon," Christmas told reporters after the hearing. He said police beat the alleged confession out of Williams, and "I just don't believe that any statements were made voluntarily."
St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman has called Christmas' assertions "completely false." Schellman said Williams was seen by a nurse when he was booked into the county jail — standard procedure for all incoming inmates — who deemed him "fit for confinement."
Ferguson has been a national focal point since Brown was killed Aug. 9 by then-police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November, and Wilson was cleared of civil rights charges by a U.S. Justice Department report released March 4.
A separate DOJ report found widespread racial bias in the city's policing and its municipal court system.