The man accused of shooting two police officers in Ferguson was not targeting officers or aiming at demonstrators, his lawyer said as he countered a police description of the crime that has heightened tensions in the city.
Defence lawyer Jerryl Christmas also suggested that St Louis County police might have used excessive force when arresting the suspect, Jeffrey Williams, saying his client had bruises on his back, shoulders and face and a lump on his head.
Police spokesman Brian Schellman called the lawyer’s allegations “completely false”, adding that Williams was seen by a nurse when booked into the county jail, standard procedure for incoming inmates.
“The nurse released Williams as fit for confinement,” he said.
Williams is accused of shooting the two officers early on Thursday outside Ferguson’s police station, which has been the scene of protests since last summer’s fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, who is white.
A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November, and he was cleared of civil rights charges by a Justice Department report released on March 4. He resigned in November.
But a separate US Justice Department report found widespread racial bias in the city’s policing and in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from fines imposed on mostly black and low-income residents.
Williams, 20, appeared in court the day after his arrest on charges of felony assault, armed criminal action and a weapons offence.
“This wasn’t any type of ambush shooting,” Mr Christmas said, countering an earlier description by St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar of the March 12 shooting outside Ferguson police headquarters. “Those officers were shot accidentally.”
Williams told investigators he was not targeting law enforcement and had been aiming instead at someone with whom he had a dispute, authorities said. But that assertion was met with scepticism by St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch.