Leon Nelson

A black eighteen year-old from St. Louis came over to the media zone last night and talked to reporters about how he had been violently arrested by police during Tuesday night while protesting in Ferguson against the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

Leon Nelson, said a “kid threw a plastic water bottle toward a police officer.” The officers became mad and then started to chase a bunch of kids. The officers ran after them as they headed toward a bridge nearby the QuikTrip.  (Video of Nelson describing the arrest, which was posted by Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly.)

“While we was running, I turned around and seen an officer behind me with a taser,” Nelson recalled. Some officers yelled at officers in front of him to grab him. So, while he was running toward them, he was grabbed and thrown to the ground.

Nelson claimed he told the officers something like, “I surrender.” However, the police put a knee on his head and he was also punched in his jaw.

This happened “before curfew.” He also said he didn’t do anything or throw anything. He was simply there with his cousin and then the police started chasing people.

The bottle being thrown was a pretext to snatch and grab a number of young men. “They told eight other males that they threw a water bottle at them so they can just grab [them].”

This conduct by police is consistent with what National Lawyers Guild legal observer Max Suchan shared with me in an interview. He was arrested that same night. Also, it is consistent with what happened to a group, including rapper Talib Kweli, MSNBC’s Trymaine Lee, Rosa Clemente, Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders and other activists made to lay face down by police who had their guns drawn.

I was with the reporters gathered around Nelson, but Nelson was soft-spoken and it was difficult to hear some of the details he was describing.

When he first appeared by the media zone, I walked over to take his photo. I listened to him for a little bit and then police came over and disrupted the press conference that was taking place spontaneously.

Media were ordered to keep moving and so reporters began to walk and interview Nelson at the same time. I watched the crowd move down the street and resumed a position just inside the media zone.

An officer in a blue shirt, no visible vest, came over and talked to me.  He asked me who was talking to the media and said something about the big mark on his face. He asked if I knew how he got it.

I told the officer I didn’t know. He then said he was just trying to figure out why he was so important.

The exchange was revealing, as the officer was casually indifferent and oblivious to why the media would be so interested in Nelson.

Did the officer truly not realize what officers had been doing? Did he truly not know that there are officers out there, who have been extremely rough with people? Or was this some kind of act to get me to help him figure out whether he needed to make a call to other officers to further disrupt the interview between Nelson and media?

I don’t know, but I do know that the officer I spoke with really did not seem to think—or care—that the mark on his face may have come from a police officer.