ST. LOUIS — For nearly a week, the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson has been a shadowy figure — nameless, faceless and seemingly shielded from the fury that has filled the streets of the town he was sworn to protect.
On Friday, the community finally learned his name — Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old officer who has spent the last six years patrolling the St. Louis suburbs and drawing praise from his boss.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Wilson had not been the focus of any public complaints. He declined to offer many details about Wilson's life or career but commended his police record and his demeanor.
"He was a gentle, quiet man," Jackson said. "He was a distinguished officer. He is, has been, an excellent officer for the police department."
Wilson has been on administrative leave since the Aug. 9 shooting.
Police said Wilson stopped 18-year-old Michael Brown and another young man because they were walking down the middle of the street. He ordered them onto the sidewalk.
Authorities say one of the men pushed Wilson into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with him over the officer's weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street, where Wilson shot Brown multiple times, according to police.
Wilson is "devastated" by the Aug. 9 events, the police chief said.
"He never intended for any of this to happen," Jackson added.
Wilson spent the first two years of his career with the police department in nearby Jennings before moving on to Ferguson for the past four years. Ferguson's police force is nearly all-white. The town's population is about 70 percent black.
Jackson had originally planned to release the name earlier in the week but delayed the announcement, citing safety concerns and death threats against the officer.
St. Louis County police and the FBI are conducting separate investigations.
The St. Louis County prosecutor said it will probably be weeks before a decision is made on whether to charge Wilson with a crime.