No Indictment of Officer in Missouri Death Grand Jury Does Not Charge Darren Wilson in Ferguson Case
A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.
The decision by the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks was announced Monday night by the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Mr. McCulloch said that Officer Wilson faced charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
Word of the decision set off a new wave of anger among hundreds who gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department. Police officers in riot gear stood in a line as demonstrators chanted and threw signs and other objects toward them as the news spread. “The system failed us again,” one woman said. In downtown Ferguson, the sound of breaking glass could be heard as crowds ran through the streets.
Mr. Brown’s family issued a statement expressing sadness, but calling for peaceful protest and a campaign to require body cameras on police officers nationwide. “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the statement said. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
But outside the police station, Lesley McSpadden, Mr. Brown’s mother, voiced frustration with the decision. “They wrong!” she yelled, pointing toward the police officers standing outside of the station. “Y’all know y’all wrong!”
At the White House, President Obama appealed for peaceful protest and “care and restraint” from law enforcement following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson, even as he said the situation speaks to broader racial challenges in America.
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades,” Mr. Obama said in brief remarks in the briefing room, where he made an unusual late-night appearance to respond to the decision. “But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”
In a lengthy news conference, Mr. McCulloch described the series of events, step by step, that had led to the shooting, and the enormous array of evidence and witnesses brought before the grand jury. He described an altercation inside Officer Wilson’s vehicle, after which Officer Wilson had Mr. Brown’s blood on his weapon, shirt and pants, the prosecutor said, as well as swelling and redness on his face.
“Physical evidence does not look away as events unfold,” he said.
Mr. McCulloch also pointed to inconsistent and changing statements from witnesses, including observations about the position of Mr. Brown’s hands. Some witnesses have said he had his hands up as the final shots were fired.
Law enforcement authorities had been on alert in preparation for unrest if no indictment was returned. Even before the decision was announced, National Guard troops were dispatched to a police command post; political leaders, including Gov. Jay Nixon, flew in to hold last-minute meetings with community members; schools closed for the week; and businesses and residents, including parents of schoolchildren, braced for what might come next.
Robert P. McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, announced the grand jury’s decision Monday at the courthouse in Clayton, Mo. Credit Pool photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte
Mr. Nixon, who had declared a state of emergency and called up the Missouri National Guard last week, called for peace and calm in a news conference Monday several hours before the decision was announced. “Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint,” he said.
Charlie A. Dooley, the St Louis county executive, appeared with Mr. Nixon. “Now is the time to show the world that we can act without being destructive,” he said.