May 22, 2022

Ferguson Officer Won’t Face Civil Rights Charges DOJ Says

Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed a teenager in 2014 won’t face civil rights charges from the Justice Department. The officer, Darren Wilson, had said that he was assaulted by 18-year-old Michael Brown before shooting him six times on Aug. 9 of that year.

After a grand jury declined to indict Wilson, Brown’s family and others pushed the Obama administration for the civil rights inquiry. The Justice Department said on Wednesday that its exhaustive investigation couldn’t prove or disprove Wilson’s account of the shooting, but found no evidence to support charges.

Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

The Justice Department launched its investigation into Brown’s death days after the shooting, sending more than 40 FBI agents to Ferguson to interview witnesses and gather evidence. Investigators reviewed physical, ballistic, forensic, and crime scene evidence; medical reports, and autopsy reports, according to the Justice Department. They also obtained an audio recording of the shooting, recorded by the dashboard camera in Wilson’s police car.

The evidence was then submitted to federal prosecutors and two grand juries, the statement said.

It concluded that Brown’s death is a tragedy, but one that would be difficult to prosecute under criminal civil rights statutes. Federal statutes require prosecutors to prove that a defendant willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning it would be hard to prove Wilson knowingly intended to violate Brown’s civil rights.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice is closing its investigation into Michael Brown’s death and properly alleges no violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes.

Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson, Lynch said in a statement.

Wilson has since left the Ferguson Police Department. His attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said he appreciated the clarity provided by the DOJ decision.

It allows Officer Wilson and a lot of other people to move on with their lives, Bruntrager said. The evidence is overwhelming that the officer acted appropriately.

Lynch said it would be speculative to say what happened during Brown’s confrontation with Wilson heightened the tension.

The statement also said that while supportive testimony by African Americans about Brown’s character demonstrated that the shooting left an indelible mark on Ferguson, the community was not of one perspective. Witnesses who supported Wilson’s account were more credible in the eyes of federal investigators, according to Lynch.