Photos: Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson earned police honor before fatal shooting

Patrolman’s father recently sought prayers for a ‘very challenging’ family situation

Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson (Screen shot via Facebook)
Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson (Screen shot via Facebook)

FERGUSON, Mo. — Six months before he shot and killed an unarmed teenager, police Officer Darren Wilson earned a commendation for his “extraordinary effort in the line of duty.”

Yahoo News confirmed the award through the February 11 Ferguson City Council meeting minutes and photos Wilson’s father posted to his Facebook page.

“Very proud of my son, Darren Wilson on his receiving a Commendation from his Police Department,” John Wilson wrote on February 11. “Congratulations Son.”

One image shows Wilson shaking hands and receiving the commendation from Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson. In a second photo, the tall and slender Wilson brandishes smile as he returns to his seat with his honor.

Details of what the 28-year-old officer did to earn the commendation weren't immediately available. (The Facebook page for the officer's father appears to have been deactivated shortly after Yahoo News first published this story on Saturday morning.)

Yahoo News tried to reach John Wilson by phone late Friday. Tonya Wilson, his wife and the officer’s stepmother, answered and said “we’re not talking to anybody — thank you” before hanging up. A text message seeking the name of Wilson’s attorney wasn’t returned.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is surrounded by his officers as he leaves a news conference on Friday. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is surrounded by his officers as he leaves a news conference on Friday. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Four days ago John Wilson turned to Facebook for support without mentioning his son by name.

“Dear FB friends, Our family is in need for prayers to be sent up for a family member,” John Wilson wrote. “Circumstances do not allow for us to say anything further. Please pray with our family in mind. Put a covering of protection over our family member please.”

A woman who replied in the comment thread told John that she could put him in touch with someone that “has been through many difficult times with his children. Prayers are what brought the family through the rough times. We are just a phone call away.”

John Wilson thanked his many friends who were quick to offer encouragement.

“Please continue to do so as we deal with a family situation that is very challenging,” he wrote.

In his last post this week, John Wilson shared a saying from a Texas evangelical pastor: “When something is ‘out of control’ it is merely out of your control — not God’s!”

[Related: Police, protesters clash again in Ferguson]

On Friday, Chief Jackson told reporters that the young officer was taking the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown very hard.

“He never intended for any of this to happen,” Jackson said. “It’s devastating, absolutely devastating.”

An undated photo of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Brown Family)
An undated photo of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Brown Family)

The officer’s modest ranch-style house in the Crestwood suburb southwest of downtown was quiet on Friday. Neighbors told reporters that the area had seen a heavy police presence all week and that Wilson apparently left a couple of days ago.

The Ferguson chief said Wilson has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of multiple investigations into the shooting.

Police said Brown, a recent high school graduate, was shot after Wilson encountered him and another man on the street during a routine patrol. The department says a skirmish ensued and that Brown physically assaulted Wilson and tried to take his weapon. According to a brief timeline given by Chief Jackson, the altercation lasted no more than three minutes before Wilson shot Brown multiple times.

But Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend, has told reporters that it was Wilson who was the aggressor and that Brown never went for the weapon. Instead, Johnson says Brown had his hands in the air and was pleading for Wilson not to shoot.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting and the department’s delay in naming the officer fueled a week of turmoil in Ferguson and outcry across the nation. Jackson said he delayed identifying Wilson because the officer fears for his safety.

Wilson, a longtime Missouri resident, has been an officer in Ferguson for four years and served in nearby Jennings for two years prior. Jackson said Wilson has no history of disciplinary action and described him as a “gentle man” and a “quiet officer.”

“He has been an excellent officer for the police department,” Jackson said.

(The original story was updated at 1 p.m. ET.)

Follow Jason Sickles on Twitter (@jasonsickles).