CLAYTON, Mo. — A Missouri prosecutor said Thursday that he would not charge the former Ferguson police officer who killed an 18-year-old in 2014.
Wesley Bell, prosecutor for St. Louis County, said he would not pursue charges against Darren Wilson, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Wilson, a white police officer, fatally shot Brown, a Black 18-year-old, on Aug. 9, 2014, in the middle of the street outside a Ferguson apartment complex, the newspaper reported. Brown’s body was left in the street for nearly four hours, sparking outrage nationwide and violent protests in Ferguson.
Bell’s predecessor, Bob McCulloch, was criticized for not charging Wilson, instead taking the case to a grand jury, The Associated Press reported. Wilson resigned on Nov. 24, 2014, several days after McCullough announced that a grand jury would not indict the police officer
Civil rights leaders and Brown’s mother had hoped that Bell, St. Louis County’s first Black prosecutor, would reopen the case after he took office in January 2019.
“In the end, we cannot ethically bring this case to trial,” Bell told the Post-Dispatch before holding a news conference Thursday. Bell added that his investigation does not exonerate Wilson.
Bell told reporters that his decision, made after a five-month review of witness statements and evidence, was “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.”
“My heart breaks” for Brown’s parents, Bell said during the news conference. “I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever.”
“Although this case represents one of the most significant moments in St. Louis’ history, the question before this office was a simple one: Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law?” Bell said. “After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did.”
Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of a street when Wilson told them to move to the sidewalk, KDSK reported. Words were exchanged, which led to a fight inside Wilson’s SUV, the television station reported. After Brown exited the vehicle and ran, he turned around to face the officer. Wilson then shot Brown, who was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 290 pounds. Wilson claimed he fired in self-defense, KDSK reported.
n 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded Wilson was justifiably afraid of Brown and could not be prosecuted federally, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Wilson’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, did not return messages seeking comment, the Post-Dispatch reported.
As the news conference ended, one observer erupted in anger at Bell, the AP reported.
“It’s over! One term!” the man yelled before being led out of the room by police officers.
“What was important to us was we didn’t want to create a circus if we announced we were looking at it,” Bell said. “We didn’t want any outside or undue pressure to push us in one direction or another. We wanted to have the opportunity to look at it, give it a fair, fresh set of eyes and go where the facts took us, and that’s what we did.”