Darren Wilson has lived in the shadows for nearly four months, changing residence from house to house, spending spare time in dark movie theaters, in hopes he won’t be spotted.
But he has not sneaked around alone. He has had protectors.
Fellow officers have been by his side day and night, as deadly threats have driven the former Ferguson police officer into hiding, after he shot unarmed teen Michael Brown in August.
“Fraternal Order of Police members from the surrounding area volunteered and have provided him with security from that time, right up until the present,” FOP spokesman Jim Pasco told CNN.
They had to, because Ferguson police were either “unwilling or unable” to protect Wilson, Pasco alleged. It was the department’s duty, he said. “That’s what the police department’s supposed to do.”
CNN has reached out for comment on Pasco’s claim to the Ferguson police department but has not heard back.
The volunteer officers are guarding Wilson in their off-duty time — without pay, Pasco said.
Early talk of cyberstalking drove Wilson underground.
He was pushing a lawn mower days after the shooting, when he was told his home address was circulating online. He realized he was a sitting duck.
“He had to leave the grass, literally, half mowed,” his lawyer, Neil Bruntrager told CNN. Wilson stuffed belongings into bags, and three hours later, he began a life out of sight.
“He’s had to learn to live in a way that makes him completely unnoticeable,” Bruntrager said. He joked that his client “cross-dressed a lot.”
Despite the circumstances, he did manage to get married last month, and his wife, a Ferguson police officer, is pregnant and now on leave.
The stalking has snowballed.
Deadly threats have poured in via phone, e-mail and social media. “There were bounties that had been placed upon his life,” Bruntrager said.
And threats were aimed not just against him.
On Monday, the FBI arrested Seattle area man, Jaleel Tariq Abdul-Jabbaar, after he allegedly posted multiple death threats to Facebook against a Ferguson police officer with the initials D.W. — and his family, according to the arrest complaint.
“Are there any REAL BLACK MEN that would love to go down to Ferguson Missouri to give back those bullets that Police Officer [D.W.] fired into the body of Mike Brown. If we’re unable to locate Officer [D.W.] then We’ll return them to his wife and if not her then his children,” one post read.
The threats crossed state lines, making them an interstate threat, the federal offense listed on the complaint.
Abdul-Jabbaar also sent messages that he was trying to get his hands on a gun and that he would be traveling to Ferguson, the document said.
Stalkers will likely make it hard for Wilson to be safe for a while, said law enforcement legal expert Ron Hosko.
“There are cyber-activists in our world who are going to be actively trying to find out, where is Darren Wilson? They’re going to be trying to find out: Where did Darren Wilson spend his last dollar? — so that they can track and put out in public where he is and really create an enhanced threat to him,” he said.
Concern for safety drove Wilson to quit Ferguson’s police force — the safety of his colleagues, he said.
“I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow,” he wrote in his letter of resignation.
But another attorney for Wilson told The Washington Post that Wilson’s own safety also had a lot to do with his decision to leave.
“I think I expressed to him, ‘Do you realize your first call (back on the job) will be to a blind alley where you’re executed?’ He took a pause for a minute, thought about it and said, ‘Oh.’ That is the reality,” attorney James Towey told the paper.
Wilson will have to keep up his low profile. So will his guardians, Hosko said. No marked cars in front of the house, no large groups of off-duty officers.
“Maybe one person, maybe two people, so that Officer Wilson – former officer Wilson – can sleep at night,” he said.
Pasco is keeping the details of Wilson’s protection under his hat.
He said the officers would keep it up “as long as we have to.”