Monday, August 25, 2014

how did he get to be an overseer?

NYTimes | As a teenager, Darren Wilson lived in St. Peters, Mo., a mostly white city of 54,000 about 20 miles west of Ferguson, where his environment was chaotic. He was the eldest of three children of Tonya Dee Durso, who, records show, carried out financial crimes, including against Sandra Lee Finney, who lived across the street and had believed they were friends.

“It’s a terrible thing that has happened now, but he did have a troubled childhood,” Ms. Finney said in an interview, adding that Officer Wilson’s family had somewhat awkwardly stayed in the neighborhood — moving just one door down — even after his mother was convicted of stealing and forgery in 2001.

After her bank informed her that it was freezing her accounts, Ms. Finney said she learned that numerous credit cards had been opened in her name, her mail was being stolen, her phones were secretly forwarded across the street, and the thief had managed to obtain her driver’s license and a copy of the key to her front door. Among the purchases: tens of thousands of dollars of candles; home decorations; furniture; clothes, including some from American Eagle Outfitters, which Ms. Finney says was Officer Wilson’s favorite store at the time; and hockey gear.

“All the while, she’d come over and sit at my kitchen table to chat and say how she would help me with this terrible thing that was happening to us,” Ms. Finney said of Ms. Durso, whom she described as a thin, blonde woman who seemed upper-middle class. “What hurt me more than all of it was what she did to those kids.”

Ms. Durso pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. Not long after, in 2002, when Officer Wilson was a sophomore in high school, Ms. Durso died at age 35 and one of his stepfathers was granted guardianship until he finished high school. An obituary cited natural causes.

Years later, Ms. Finney said she was stunned when she saw her former neighbor appear outside the old house in a police uniform. “My husband and I thought, ‘How did he get to be a police officer?’ ”

After attending the police academy, Officer Wilson began work in Jennings, another suburb, in June 2009. Robert Orr, the former chief of the Jennings Police Department, said he had no recollection of Officer Wilson and had to call the mayor last week to jog his memory. “Sure enough, the mayor said he was one of ours,” Mr. Orr said. “That must mean he never got in any trouble, because that’s when they usually came to me.”

Yet Officer Wilson’s formative experiences in policing came in a department that wrestled historically with issues of racial tension, mismanagement and turmoil. During Officer Wilson’s brief tenure, another officer was fired for a wrongful shooting, and a lieutenant was accused of stealing federal funds. In 2011, in the wake of federal and state investigations into the misuse of grant money, the department closed, and the city entered into a contract to be policed by the county. The department was found to have used grant money to pay overtime for D.W.I. checkpoints that never took place.