WASHINGTON (AA) – The St. Louis Police Department has indefinitely suspended an officer from its force after he drew his weapons and threatened demonstrators and journalists, including Anadolu Agency correspondent Bilgin Sasmaz.
AA correspondent Bilgin Sasmaz was wounded and detained by police late Tuesday while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In video footage released shortly after his detention, the officer can be seen threatening to kill Sasmaz.
Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, confirmed that the officer was removed from his post and called his actions “inappropriate.”
Sasmaz spoke Tuesday via phone to AA headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, where he said that he had been beaten and detained by the police for five hours while reporting on recurring protests in the suburb of St. Louis over the killing of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer on Aug. 9.
Sasmaz said that he was trying to record an officer who was about to shoot a plastic bullet at one of the demonstrators on West Florissant Ave., where the protests are taking place.
“I was threatened by the police officer. ‘I will kill you if you try to shoot a video again’ the officer said,” according to Sasmaz.
He said he went on to record despite the threats when one of the demonstrators threw a bottle at a police officer.
“A police officer grabbed me, removed from the scene by force, although I shouted ‘Press!, Press!,” Sasmaz said.
He said he was forced to kneel down. He did not resist and there was blood on his knees.
“The police placed me in plastic handcuffs, got me on the ground and took my camera. They made me get in a police van,” he said.
“I waited in the van for one and half hours with some protesters. I was taken to a detention center and then to a police station, and searched from top to toe.”
Sasmaz also said his camera was damaged.
Clashes in Ferguson between police and protesters spread over the weekend following the release of the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot Brown. The shooting has ignited racial tensions in the predominantly black city.
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