WASHINGTON — The charity that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Darren Wilson is refusing to say how it has spent that money.
Shield of Hope, a 501c3 charity for local police officers, raised at least $400,000 on GoFundMe.com to support Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Now, months after the charity shut down that GoFundMe page, those running the organization are refusing to say what they've done with the donations and whether any of the funds have gone toward supporting Wilson. A note on the now-shuttered GoFundMe page said the charity would use the money for "potential legal fees, relocation and living expenses of both Officer Darren Wilson and his immediate family."
According to Brian Beck, the lawyer who represents Shield of Hope, that information might be released at some point.
"Shield of Hope will make information available to the public at the appropriate time, and declines to comment at this time," Beck told BuzzFeed News in an email.
Other calls and emails to the charity's board have either gone unanswered or the person reached refused to comment on the charity's actions. When initially reached by phone, Beck refused to even confirm he was Shield of Hope's lawyer.
A grand jury recently opted not to indict Wilson in connection with Brown's death and an ongoing federal investigation has yet to yield any results.
An email to Wilson's lawyer was not returned.
After securing the donations, one of the charity's board members said those running Shield of Hope weren't entirely sure they could legally use the funds raised for their intended purpose.
"If we find money was donated to the Shield of Hope's GoFundMe and it can't be used for the express purpose it was intended for, we will return it," Jeff Roorda, one of the charity's board members, told the Riverfront Times in September.
The board consists of Roorda, a state representative who was ousted in November, Timothy Zoll, the spokesman for the Ferguson police department, and Florissant councilman Joseph Eagan.
As a 501c3, the charity is required to file an annual 990 financial disclosure form. But 990s don't always tell the whole story of how an organization operates.
A search on Guidestar.com shows no viewable 990 forms from Shield of Hope, which has existed since at least 2011.
Jacob Fischler is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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