Nearly six years after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, sparking months of protests in the Missouri city and across the US, a county prosecutor announced Thursday that his office will not charge the officer after reinvestigating the case.
The white officer, Darren Wilson, fatally shot Brown, 18, on Aug. 9, 2014, while attempting to detain the Black teenager for his role in a theft at a convenience store. In November 2014, a grand jury cleared Wilson of criminal charges after the officer testified that he had feared for his life, though Brown was unarmed.
"Although this case represents one of the most significant moments in St. Louis's history, the question for 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?" St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said during a press conference. "The answer to that question is no."
Several witnesses, including Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, who was with the teen when he died, claimed Brown had his hands up when he was shot to death, inspiring the "hands up, don't shoot" chant at rallies around the country. A 2015 federal report later found that the evidence supported Wilson's account and that the "popular narrative that Wilson shot Brown execution-style as he held up his hands in surrender" lacked credibility.
The St. Louis County prosecutor, Bell, who took office in January 2019, said his office spent five months reviewing the case at the request of Brown's family. But after reexamining thousands of pages of witness statements, forensic reports, and other evidence, his office felt that there wasn't enough to bring charges.
"I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever," Bell said. "Our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson. The question of whether we can prove a case at trial is different than clearing him of any and all wrongdoing."
He added that there were "so many points at which" Wilson could have "handled the situation differently — and if he had, Michael Brown might still be alive."