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Michael Brown's Family "Officially In The Process" Of Filing A Civil Wrongful Death Suit

The demonstrations came Wednesday night after a Justice Department civil rights investigation found a pattern of racial bias and unconstitutional use of force among Ferguson police officers. Police on Thursday wouldn't disclose the charges of those arrested, saying the information was "private."

Last updated on March 5, 2015, at 11:27 a.m. ET

Posted on March 4, 2015, at 1:02 p.m. ET

Pool / Getty Images

What We Know So Far

  • The Justice Department on Wednesday released the results of two civil rights investigations, one into the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and one into the Ferguson police department.
  • Investigators concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed.
  • Justice Department officials did find a widespread pattern of unconstitutional abuse committed by the Ferguson police department, including the use of unreasonable stops and force on minority members of the community.
  • Michael Brown's parents said Wednesday they were "saddened" and "disappointed" by the decision.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder said about not charging officer Darren Wilson, "I...know these findings may not be consistent with some people's expectations."
  • Three city employees have been placed on administrative leave, including one who was fired, after the DOJ found racist emails.
  • On Thursday, Michael Brown's family attorneys announced they are filing a civil wrongful death case.

Updates

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Speaking for the first time since the release of the Department of Justice's report, Michael Brown's family attorneys announced that they are "officially in the process of formulating a civil wrongful death case."

AP

Brown's family said on Thursday that they are "officially in the process" of formulating a civil case on behalf of the family "to show a more accurate picture of what took place that day," adding that Darren Wilson did not need to use deadly force.

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Michael Brown's family is speaking to the public at 11 a.m ET to respond to the Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson police department, and its decision not to press charges against the officer who shot Brown. Watch live here:

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Male officers at the Ferguson police department sexually harassed the four female officers there, according to the Justice Department's report.

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A group of protesters gathered outside the Ferguson police department on Wednesday night. A dispatcher told BuzzFeed News she "believed" four were arrested, and wouldn't give out charges because that information was "private."

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
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Ferguson Mayor James W. Knowles leaves a news conference after reading a statement on Wednesday.
Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Ferguson Mayor James W. Knowles leaves a news conference after reading a statement on Wednesday.

Two Ferguson city employees have been placed on administrative leave and another was fired after the Department of Justice found racist work emails, Mayor James Knowles said Wednesday.

"This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department or any other department," Knowles said at a news conference following the release of the Department of Justice report.

Noticeably absent from the news conference was Police Chief Tom Jackson, whose department was found to have use unconstitutional tactics in dealing with the city's African-American population.

City leaders were told by the DOJ on Tuesday about the racist emails exchanged by city employees, and placed three workers on administrative leave. One was fired, and two are part of an internal investigation, Knowles said.

The mayor also listed some of the actions the city has taken since unrest shook the city following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, including hiring more African-Americans and instituting a police explorer program to diversify the department's racial makeup. Officials have also stepped up outreach to the city's predominantly African-American population, Knowles said.

In addition, a civilian oversight board has been established, and a consultant was hired to study the police department's staffing and deployment.

Officials were also looking at deleting and reviewing fees that were highlighted in the DOJ report, suggesting the city's police department was more focused on generating revenue that community safety.

Revenue generated by legal fees, such as court fines and traffic tickets, would be capped at 15% of the city's total budget, Knowles said.

Knowles took no questions from reporters after delivering his statement.

Also on Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement condemning the practices outlined in the DOJ report.

Reforms that would affect municipal courts are currently being reviewed by the state's General Assembly, Nixon said.

"Facts exposed in the Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson Police Department are deeply disturbing," Nixon said. "Discrimination has no place in our justice system and no place in a democratic society."

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Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about the Department of Justice's findings related to two investigations in Ferguson, Mo.
Carolyn Kaster / AP

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about the Department of Justice's findings related to two investigations in Ferguson, Mo.

The scathing Department of Justice report on Ferguson, Missouri, found an endemic racial bias in the police department, as well as a focus on generating revenue, rather than public safety.

The report was also deeply critical of the municipal court and city council.

"Ferguson's harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials," the DOJ said.

Read some of the most shocking excerpts from the DOJ report here.

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Law enforcement officers in August watch as tear gas is fired to disperse a crowd protesting the Michael Brown shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Charlie Riedel / AP

Law enforcement officers in August watch as tear gas is fired to disperse a crowd protesting the Michael Brown shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Ferguson police have "exclusively set their dogs against black individuals," often when it was not justified, according to a Department of Justice report.

The investigation also found that Ferguson police use "dog bites only against African-American subjects is evidence of discriminatory policing in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and other federal laws."

Read more about the practice here.

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This investigation found a community that was deeply polarized; a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents. A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue. A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents. A community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias – both implicit and explicit. And a community where all of these conditions, unlawful practices, and constitutional violations have not only severely undermined the public trust, eroded police legitimacy, and made local residents less safe – but created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them. Of course, violence is never justified. But seen in this context – amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices – it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg. In a sense, members of the community may not have been responding only to a single isolated confrontation, but also to a pervasive, corrosive, and deeply unfortunate lack of trust – attributable to numerous constitutional violations by their law enforcement officials including First Amendment abuses, unreasonable searches and seizures, and excessive and dangerous use of force; exacerbated by severely disproportionate use of these tactics against African Americans; and driven by overriding pressure from the city to use law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue.
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During his speech, Attorney General Holder provided an example of Ferguson police misconduct, which often leads to "multiple arrests, and payments that exceed the cost of the ticket" they receive.

"In 2007, one woman received two parking tickets for $152," Holder said. "To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city. She has been arrested twice for having two unpaid tickets, and spent six days in jail. Yet today, she still inexplicably owes Ferguson $541. And her story is one of dozens of similar accounts that our investigation uncovered"

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Watch Attorney General Eric Holder respond to the Justice Department's report here.

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National Action Network, the civil rights organization led by civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, is deeply disappointed with the decision by the DOJ that they have cleared Officer Darren Wilson of civil rights charges in the death of Michael Brown. From the day Michael Brown was killed, NAN has stood with the Brown family in the pursuit of justiceWe hope that the Justice Department's finding that the Ferguson Police Department had a pattern and practice that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, will result in an overhaul of the department.We will not be discouraged as we continue to fight for the family of Eric Garner a as they await the decision in the federal investigation of his death. We will continue to push for legislation and policies that protect the rights of all citizens. As Martin Luther King Jr. said "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle." We will continue to fight until we see that change come.
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BuzzFeed News reporter Joel Anderson on the DOJ report of Michael Brown's death:

If not for Mike Brown, few people would have believed what was going on in Ferguson or taken it seriously, it seems.

However, the DOJ investigation finds Michael Brown may have indeed reached into Offc. Wilson's SUV and punched him.

So far, most witness accounts in the DOJ report seem to corroborate Wilson's version of events. Here's Witness 103.

Witness 108, who I'm sure I've interviewed previously.

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Today 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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St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office via Getty Images

Officer Darren Wilson will not face federal charges in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, Department of Justice officials said Wednesday.

The announcement ended a months-long investigation by DOJ officials into the Ferguson shooting, which ignited a racial controversy across the United States and led to widespread protests.

Wilson, who was cleared by a Missouri grand jury in November over Brown's death, had faced the prospect of potential federal charges, but officials said they could not find any evidence to contradict Wilson's claim that he feared for his life when he shot the black teenager.

"Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so," the DOJ said in a news release.

"After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute."

Michael Brown's family was informed of the department's findings earlier on Wednesday, officials said.

A rain-soaked memorial remains at the location where Michael Brown was shot and killed.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

A rain-soaked memorial remains at the location where Michael Brown was shot and killed.

However, a separate civil rights investigation also found a pattern of racial bias among Ferguson police officers.

"Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them," said Attorney General Eric Holder.

The report found Ferguson police had a "pattern or practice" of interfering with the right to free speech under the First Amendment, as well as using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The DOJ found that 93% of all the people arrested in Ferguson between 2012 and 2014 were black, even though the city is only 67% African-American. Blacks were also heavily stopped for jaywalking offenses or failing to comply.

Federal investigators also found that the Ferguson Municipal Court focused on revenue rather than public safety, resulting in violations of due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

After reviewing more than 35,000 pages of police records for its investigation, the DOJ expressly highlighted a "racial bias" that existed in the town.

"Ferguson's harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials," the DOJ said.

"As detailed in our report, this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents," said Holder.

The outgoing attorney general also called on Ferguson's leaders to take "immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action."

Read the full DOJ report on Michael Brown's death:

Read the DOJ's report into Ferguson's police department.

The department also put together these graphs:


This is a developing story. Please check back here and at BuzzFeed News on Twitter for updates.

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