The top prosecutor in St. Louis County will not bring charges against Darren Wilson, the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The decision comes nearly six years after a grand jury declined to prosecute Wilson, who is White.
Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said his office spent five months re-investigating the case at the request of Brown’s family, calling the shooting one of the “most significant moments in St. Louis’ history.”
“Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law? After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did,” Bell, who took office in 2019, told reporters Thursday.
“I know this is not the result (the family was) looking for, and their pain will continue forever,” Bell said.
Brown was killed on August 9 after Wilson encountered him and a friend on Canfield Drive in Ferguson. Earlier in the day, Brown had stolen cigarillos from a nearby convenience store, according to the Department of Justice’s 2015 report on his death.
When Wilson tried to stop Brown and his friend, Brown reached through the driver’s side window of Wilson’s vehicle and began punching him, the report said. The department notes that some witnesses claim Brown never put his hands in the car — but said those testimonies do not corroborate physical and forensic evidence.
After Wilson shot Brown in the hand, Brown ran from the car before turning back to face him, the report said. Wilson said he feared for his safety because Brown was running towards him. He then shot and killed Brown. Autopsy results cited in the report indicate Brown was hit six to eight times.
The DOJ investigation cleared Wilson. But it issued a scathing indictment of the Ferguson Police Department as a whole, claiming officers routinely violated the rights of Black residents.
“Police supervisors and leadership do too little to ensure that officers act in accordance with law and policy, and rarely respond meaningfully to civilian complaints of officer misconduct,” the department said in a summary of its findings. “The result is a pattern of stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Brown’s death set off unrest in the streets of Ferguson and, along with the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, sparked the rise of themovement.