The stepfather of Michael Brown has apologised for angry comments he made after the grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who killed his unarmed 18-year-old stepson, but said his remarks had nothing to do with the arson and looting that ravaged Ferguson and the surrounding area.
Police said yesterday they are investigating Louis Head's comments as part of a broader inquiry into the arson, vandalism and looting that followed the announcement of the grand jury decision on November 24.
Mr Brown's death inflamed racial tensions in the Missouri city of Ferguson and fuelled a debate over relations between law enforcement and black communities across the country.
Mr Head said today in a statement that he was full of emotion when he shouted "Burn this bitch down!" in a crowd of protesters.
Mr Brown, who was black, was shot and killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on August 9. Mr Wilson, who is white, told the grand jury he fired because his life was in danger, but some witnesses said Mr Brown was trying to surrender.
Mr Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, was on top of a car on a Ferguson street in front of the police station, surrounded by protesters, when she heard the grand jury announcement. She began sobbing. Her husband jumped on top of the car and hugged her, then shouted out.
The street was already noisy and grew louder as Mr Head hugged his wife. He shouted without a microphone or any amplification. Some people who were close by could not hear what he said.
Still, video of the comments immediately spread on Twitter, YouTube and other social media.
"I was so angry and full of raw emotions, as so many others were, and granted, I screamed out words that I shouldn't have screamed in the heat of the moment," Mr Head said.
But Mr Head said to it is unfair to place blame solely on him for the violence that transpired.
Remy Cross, a criminologist at Webster University in suburban St Louis, said he would be surprised if Mr Head is criminally charged, especially considering the emotional distress he was under at the time.
And Mr Cross wondered why police would want to stir up emotions again, especially now that protests have died down to the point that police and the National Guard have scaled back their patrols. There have been no night-time arrests at Ferguson protests since Friday.