Michael Brown’s family will file a lawsuit against ex-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who gunned down the 18-year-old Missouri teenager last summer. Lawyers for Brown’s family reiterated Thursday their intent to file a civil wrongful death suit against Wilson, something that they had spoken of in November when a grand jury declined to indict Wilson on charges.
People.com on March 5 reported that the Justice Department has “formally closed the investigation it conducted after a grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November. The 86-page report, released Wednesday, stated, ‘Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to the ground.’ On Aug. 9 Wilson encountered Brown, who was a suspect in a convenience store theft, according to reports. After a two-minute tussle, Brown was shot and killed. The aftermath made national headlines when countless protests erupted in the days and weeks following the shooting.”
Daryl Parks, an attorney for Michael Brown’s parents Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., said at the press conference: “We believe that there were other alternatives available to [Wilson]. He did not have to kill Michael Brown…For his parents to sit there and hear from DOJ officials was a tough day for them. They don’t accept this self-defense theory.”
A twelve-member grand jury panel disagreed. The nine whites and three blacks had been tasked with determining if the evidence warranted bringing Darren Wilson up on charges. The jury members heard from over 60 witnesses, and determined that officer Wilson was justified in his use of deadly force.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, in announcing the jury’s decision, said in November: “There is no question that Darren Wilson caused the death of Michael Brown by shooting him, but the inquiry does not end there. The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction…no probable cause exists to file any charges against Darren Wilson.” Officer Wilson testified at the trial that Brown charged him, causing him to fire volleys of shots as the nearly 300-pound teen kept coming. The kill shot, striking Brown through the top of his head, came as he was only 8 to 10 feet away from Wilson.
Darren Wilson’s injuries and statements made during the grand jury trial were made public shortly after the decision was announced. The decision touched off a violent night of lootings and acts of arson. Violent protests in Ferguson became a routine report as photos and videos emerged in the weeks after Brown’s death, and once again after the grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson.
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Writes The Wire, via Yahoo News on Nov. 25: “After killing Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson was seen in the emergency department at Christian Hospital in St. Louis. Some just-released photos taken at the time documented the extent of Wilson’s injuries. The images were later presented as evidence to the grand jury. Wilson testified that Brown punched him in the face, in addition to grappling with him for control of the officer’s handgun. Wilson’s medical record from the emergency department culminates with the diagnosis of ‘facial contusion’ (a bruise).”
The report debunks the widely reported rumor that Wilson was admitted to the hospital with a broken orbital bone. For the first time, the six-year officer’s statements and transcripts were made available. In them, Wilson recounts what he describes as a potentially “fatal” altercation with the six-foot-four, nearly 300-pound Brown.
A portion of the court records, seen here, show that Wilson feared for his life when Brown started a confrontation with Wilson while half inside of his patrol car. “I felt another one of those punches in my face would knock me out or worse. I mean, it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was, and stronger, and the—I’ve already taken two to the face, and I don’t think I would—the third one could be fatal if he hit me right,” Wilson said.
Court records also speak of the fact that Brown was violent, belligerent and continued to taunt Wilson, telling him that Wilson was too much of a “pussy” to actually shoot Brown. Wilson discharged his weapon with multiple bursts as a charging Brown continued to run at former officer.
According to the grand jury records, when Wilson was asked by investigators what he was thinking during the confrontation, Wilson replied that he was scared for his life. That Wilson felt his life was being put in jeopardy was key to establishing that the use of deadly force was justified. Jurors traditionally have afforded law enforcement a wide latitude in this respect.
Wilson said Brown was uncontrollable. “For lack of a better word, crazy. I’ve never seen that,” Wilson said. “I mean, it was very aggravated, aggressive, hostile. Just, you could tell he was looking through you,” later adding that he “felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.”
Wilson said he confronted Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson – whose statements in the weeks after Brown’s death proved to be complete lies – when Wilson saw the two black men walking directly in the middle of the road. Wilson was aware of a recent report that the nearby Ferguson Market had been robbed of cigars and the store owner manhandled. Brown was involved in the robbery at the convenience store; video captured him roughing up a store clerk and walking out with a box of cigars.
“I told ’em, ‘Hey guys, why don’t you walk on the sidewalk,’” Wilson recounted to detectives. “The first one said, ‘We’re almost to our destination.’” Wilson said he again asked the men to move to the sidewalk, and Brown replied: “F— what you have to say.” Wilson said he then backed up his police car and attempted to get out, but Brown pushed the door back in.
The pair tussled in the window of the cruiser, and Wilson said his “firearm was in his control around my hand.” Shots were fired, and Brown was struck, at which point he started running away. Wilson called for backup, got out, and then saw Brown turn to him. “He stopped, he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person,” Wilson said. “I fired multiple shots, but he was still in the same state: still charging, hands still in his waistband, hadn’t slowed down.”
Daryl Parks said at the news conference that the City of Ferguson would also be named in the wrongful death lawsuit, along with Darren Wilson. When asked when the lawsuit would be filed, Parks declined to say specifically, stating: “soon means soon.”
Adds People.com: “Meanwhile, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division released a separate 105-page report that stated there was a history of racist behavior in the Ferguson Police Department and city.”
Brown’s parents, in a written statement, spoke last year of the grand jury decision and the DOJ findings: “We received disappointing news from the Department of Justice that the killer of our son wouldn’t be held accountable for his actions. While we are saddened by this decision, we are encouraged that the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling they found in their handling of interactions with people of color. It is our hope that through this action, true change will come not only in Ferguson but around the country. If that change happens, our son’s death will not have been in vain.”
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Sound off below: What are your thoughts on the pending suit? Does a Michael Brown lawsuit against Darren Wilson and the City of Ferguson have merit?