Darren Wilson, the St. Louis officer who killed Michael Brown last summer, will not face criminal charges in the shooting death of the unarmed teenager as decided by a grand jury. The jury on Monday declined to indict Officer Wilson for firing shots in the August confrontation that killed Brown.
Wilson, who is white, became a global figure after he shot the teenager multiple times in broad daylight on a neighborhood street. The jury deliberated for months and the local area erupted in fiery protests in the aftermath of the shooting. Before the announcement, Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon called for peace.
Prosecutor Robert McCulloch made the announcement during a late presentation Monday night in the courthouse. He discussed media coverage of the case and the “unreliability” of eyewitness accounts. The grand jury weighed the evidence and testimony before deciding against indicting Wilson. Protesters were gathering outside the police department in Ferguson. Brown’s death ignited a national debate on race and law enforcement. Nowhere was the tension more evident than in the predominantly black town of Ferguson, which has a mostly white police department and town government.
The argument behind the shooting, focused on the authorities response who featured officers with military style gear including assault rifles, armored vehicles and body armor. Protests continued for weeks — often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. Michael Brown’s family released a statement in response to the announcement of not charging Officer Wilson. They are also asking for four minutes of no protests.
We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son. We are here for protection of all children. We are here to support justice and equality for all people. We lift our voices to ensure black and brown men; women and children can live in this country without being devalued because of the color of our skin.”
Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a grand jury decides whether there is “probable cause” to charge someone with a crime, based on testimony and evidence presented. Missouri law does not require a unanimous decision to indict, as long as nine of the 12 agree on charge. Wilson faced four charges including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. The group of 12 includes nine white people (six men and three women) and three black people (two women and one man), court officials said.