“We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives,” the GoFundMe page’s creators write. “All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”
The page was launched two hours before news broke that the first autopsy on Brown’s body showed the unarmed teenager had been shot at least six times, including two shots to the head.
Reached for comment, the administrator of the fundraising campaign, identified as Allison Wilson, asked The Daily Beast for privacy.
“We are not interested in speaking with the press at this time,” Wilson said. “Please do not attempt to contact myself or any member of my family. Thank you for your understanding.”
Wilson would not comment on whether she was related to Officer Wilson, and her Facebook page has since been disabled. As for why she publicized her email address on the fundraising page, Wilson said, “The email is for questions regarding how to donate or where donations can be mailed to.”
Her reticence is not uncommon among online supporters of Officer Wilson. A number of administrators of support pages for the officer on Facebook declined to speak with The Daily Beast, citing a fear of being a target of potential violence. Those who did shared their beliefs on the condition of anonymity.
“I don’t think an officer of his reputation would shoot an unarmed person for no reason whatsoever,” said one administrator in Ferguson who suggested The Daily Beast identify him as “Bossman.” His page, called “I support Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson,” has a great deal fewer likes than some of the better-publicized Facebook pages.
“This has been made into a race issue. It’s not a race issue. It’s a self-defense issue. I think there are influences making this worse instead of calming the situation.”
“People have the misconception that a police officer cannot shoot an unarmed person, but that’s simply not the case,” he said. “Especially if someone is trying to go for an officer’s weapon. Whether or not that actually happened is unknown, but I do believe he was acting in self-defense as officers are trained to do.”
The common theme among administrators of support pages for the officer is the notion that the shooting of Michael Brown was not racially motivated.
“I don’t think it was to begin with, but the black community has turned it into that as a crutch when there’s a lack of defense on their end,” the man who wanted to be called Bossman explained. “I don’t think people will bow down to it this time. Al and Jesse would never come out from cowardly hiding if it were a black cop and white offender.”
An administrator for the closed 164-member group “We Support Darren Wilson” also suggested that the August 9 shooting initially had nothing to do with race.
“This has been made into a race issue,” she said in an email exchange with The Daily Beast. “It’s not a race issue. It’s a self-defense issue. I think there are influences making this worse instead of calming the situation.
“The riots are in my opinion are out of control. There can be peaceful protests. There is no reason for all this brutality. A town burning and people disregarding curfew and disrespecting the police and residents is incomprehensible.”
The perception that race is not a major issue in Ferguson appears to be common—at least among whites.
Just 37 percent of the white people surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll released Monday believed that the shooting of Brown raised “important issues about race.” Among African Americans surveyed, that number was 80 percent. Similarly, 33 percent of white people surveyed believed that the police had “gone too far,” while 65 percent of African Americans believed that to be true.
In Ferguson, Joel Anderson of BuzzFeed reports, some white citizens are claiming the same thing: that Brown’s shooting was not predicated on race.
Still, one of Officer Wilson’s defenders said it might be too early to start raising money for him.
“As far as the GoFundMe, I think it was premature, meaning all the evidence and facts have not come to light,” the female administrator said. “If he is innocent, he will definitely need the help, but there is always a chance new facts may come to light.”
She said she believes Wilson acted in self-defense, but if she were convinced otherwise, she would close down her support group.
The other Facebook administrator echoed that sentiment.
“If it is true that [Michael Brown] had his hands up and was not posing a threat to the officer, then I will have to side with him,” he said.
At this stage, according to a forensic pathologist who assisted with the initial private autopsy, it is unclear whether Brown was shot with his hands in the air.
Two more autopsies will be conducted on Brown’s body in the coming days, one by local officials and the other by the Justice Department. And on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson himself.
As the Obama administration begins a civil rights investigation in Ferguson, meanwhile, Officer Wilson and his family reportedly are long gone.
“The only thing I hope to come out of the group is peaceful support,” the female administrator said. “And a place for people to show their support without being attacked.”