Prosecutor: No Charges For Officer In Michael Brown’s Death

8
An objector interrupts the end of a press conference Thursday, July 30, 2020, after St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell announced no charges aganist former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown Jr. on August 9, 2014 in Clayton, Mo. Bell said his administration reopened the case and spent five months reinvestigating. (Chris Kohley/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis County’s top prosecutor announced Thursday that he will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and the police treatment of people of color.

It was nearly six years ago that a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Brown, a Black 18-year-old. Civil rights leaders and Brown’s mother had hoped that Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, the county’s first Black prosecutor, would reopen the case after he took office in January 2019.

“My heart breaks” for Brown’s parents, Bell said during a news conference. “I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever.”

Describing the announcement as “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” Bell said that his office conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence.

“The question for this office was a simple one: Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Micheal 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 said.

But, he said, “our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson.”

Wilson’s attorney, Jim Towey, noted that Bell’s review followed investigations by Bell’s predecessor, a grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We all had the same conclusion: There was no crime,” Towey said.

“I am just hoping that everybody gets to have some closure, particularly the Brown family,” he said.

The August 2014 police shooting touched off months of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and made the St. Louis suburb synonymous with a national debate about police treatment of minority people. The Ferguson unrest helped solidify the national Black Lives Matter movement that began after Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old, was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida in 2012.

The issue has taken on new life since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May after a white police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Ferguson is among the cities around the world that has seen protests since Floyd’s death.

“This is a time for us to reflect on Michael’s life, to support Michael’s family and to honor a transformative movement that will forever be linked to his name,” Bell said.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press, Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color Of Change, a national racial justice organization, said Bell’s announcement “perpetuates a criminal justice system that fails Black communities by allowing police to operate with impunity.”

“Today’s announcement by Attorney Bell to not pursue charges reinforces the importance of making the systemic changes necessary to end over-policing and the structural racism built to protect police officers from accountability,” Roberts said in a statement.

The Rev. Darryl Gray, a leading St. Louis activist, said he was disappointed but not surprised.

“What came out of this is a recognition that the system is set up to protect police officers. We now need to begin to address the legislation the police hide behind.”

Bell — who took office in January 2019 as a reform-minded prosecutor promising to eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenders and to increase the use of programs that allow defendants to avoid jail time — faced no restrictions in re-examining Brown’s death for potential murder charges. Wilson was never charged and tried, so double jeopardy was not an issue. There is no statute of limitations on filing murder charges.

As the news conference drew to a close, an activist who said he is a friend of Brown’s father, Mike Brown Sr., erupted in anger.

“It’s over! One term!” Tory Russell, 36, of St. Louis, screamed at the prosecuting attorney. Police officers gently led him from the room.

Russell later told The Associated Press that his friend is “hurting and he’s not accepting of this.”

The shooting happened after Wilson told Brown and a friend to get out of the street as they walked down the middle of Canfield Drive on a Sunday afternoon. A scuffle between Wilson and Brown ensued, ending with the fatal shot. Wilson said Brown came at him menacingly, forcing him to fire his gun in self-defense.

Brown’s body remained in the street for four hours, angering his family and nearby residents.

Bell’s predecessor, longtime prosecutor Bob McCulloch, drew considerable criticism for taking the case to a grand jury rather than charging Wilson himself. Critics also accused McCulloch of swaying the grand jury to its decision not to indict Wilson — an accusation he emphatically denied. Wilson resigned days after McCulloch’s Nov. 24, 2014, announcement that the grand jury would not indict the officer.

The Justice Department also declined to charge Wilson, but issued a scathing report citing racial bias in Ferguson’s police and courts.

Bell, a former Ferguson councilman, upset McCulloch, a staunch law-and-order prosecutor, in the 2018 Democratic primary and ran unopposed that November. Within days of taking office, Bell took steps to remove three veteran assistant prosecutors, including Kathi Alizadeh, who played a role in presenting evidence to the grand jury in the Ferguson case.

In his campaign to unseat McCulloch, Bell focused on larger criminal justice issues, not on McCulloch’s handling of the Wilson investigation.

Bell, who, like McCulloch, is the son of a police officer, said in an interview after the election that he would appoint independent special prosecutors for allegations of wrongdoing by officers. He said he would support police “200%” as long as they act appropriately. But he said officers who violate the law must be held accountable.

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, asked Republican Gov. Mike Parson to reopen the investigation in 2018, saying Bell’s win was “a clear mandate from the people of St. Louis to reform the criminal justice system, which first begins with securing justice for my son.” But Parson’s office said it had no legal authority to appoint a special prosecutor.

“The St. Louis County police department is in dire need of change,” John Bowman, president of the NAACP St. Louis County, said in a statement after Bell’s news conference. “The prosecutor’s office and the police department work too closely together on these issues and that is clearly seen. NAACP St. Louis County continues to fight for criminal justice reform and will continue to stand with families who suffer at the hands of our local police department.”

Follow VosIzNeias For Breaking News Updates



Kosher.com is here to help you manage your home without the stress. Go to Kosher.com for recipes, menu planners, kids' activities, and more.



8 COMMENTS

  1. No mention by anyone of these black leaders that people should/must respect the law PERIOD, all they’re insinuating is they should get special treatment from the police when they go wild and attack innocent people and police alike, that hopefully, will never happen.

  2. It seems obvious that the young man reached into the police vehicle. The killing seems justified.

    What is not justified is the unprofessional conduct of the local police departments. For example, they left the dead body uncovered on public display for hours in the middle of the road.

    When will looked into the many small police departments in the the county, lots of problems emerged. We saw that they were self-funding by arresting people just to fine them. They wrote up people for bleeding on their uniforms. They wrote up people for lying when they said their name was “Mike,” not “Michael.”

    That is why the Justice Department reached an agreement with the town to increase the pay and training of the policemen.

    So the killing was OK. The police departments in the area are as messed up as a soup sandwich.

  3. This biased article is a misleading, and doesn’t tell the entire story. I read the entire federal investigation report, which was published by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, under AG Eric Holder. Hundreds of witnesses were interviewed, and there were found to be witnesses who changed their stories, and lied, including Brown’s friend, who was walking with him. There was an elderly Black man who was a witness, and who was threatened by other Blacks in the community, because he essentially corroborated Officer Darren Wilson’s account. He told of how Michael Brown reached into Wilson’s patrol car, and tried to grab his gun. During the struggle, the gun went off, and Brown and his friend, both fled. Wilson called for backup, and yelled for Brown to stop. Instead of Brown stopping, he turned around and charged at Wilson, in a menacing manner, with his head down. Wilson stated that he had no doubt that Brown (who was at least 6’4″, and 260 lbs), was going to again try to take his gun away from him, and kill him. In fact, the elderly Black witness in the report stated “I would have shot that boy myself”. Also, earlier in the afternoon, Brown had manhandled a clerk in a convenience store, after being confronted about stealing some items. When Wilson saw him and his friend, he asked them not to walk in the middle of the street, as it was a very busy thoroughfare, and it was hazardous for both pedestrians and drivers for pedestrians to be walking in the middle of the road . Brown replied “A (expletive deleted) such as yourself, couldn’t make me (walk on the side of the road). It was at that point, that Brown tried to grab Wilson’s gun. Perhaps, Wilson should have stayed in his car, until help came, as he stated that he didn’t want a scene to begin with or a confrontation. However, he wanted to arrest Brown, after his gun when off during the initial struggle. Even when Brown was charging towards Wilson, he was so powerful that five bullets did not stop him. It was the last bullet, which hit him in the head, which finally stopped him. It was unfortunate that Brown was killed, but he signed his own death warrant with his actions. Also, the Justice Department conclusively proved that the story that was floating around that “Brown was in the process of surrendering with his hands up”, was an outright lie, totally contradicted by a number of witnesses.

  4. It isn’t your job to exonerate anyone you corrupt moron. Michael Brown was a thug who tried to get the cops gun he got what he deserved.

    • Exactly, law abiding people do not fight a police officer for control of their weapon. If they do they must suffer the consequences of their actions.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here