Six years after a police shooting of Michael Brown triggered riots in Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis County prosecutor has announced that his office will not seek charges against officer Darren Wilson.
“We made painstaking efforts to look at everything,” Prosecutor Wesley Bell said at a press conference, according to Missourinet. “I’m not going to relitigate the facts, because they’ve been out in the public sphere for years now. I also want to be clear that 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.
“There’s so many points at which Darren Wilson could have handled the situation differently and if he had, Michael Brown might still be alive. But that is not the question before us. The only question is whether we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred. The answer to that question is no.”
By Missouri law, Bell said his office would also have to disprove any self-defense claims beyond a reasonable doubt. “We just could not get there with the evidence as it is,” he said.
Brown, an 18-year-old African-American with a long juvenile record, was shot and killed around noon after an encounter in Ferguson’s Canfield Green apartment complex with Wilson, who is white. Eyewitness accounts say Brown was shot as he was charging at Wilson, while others say that he was shot with his hands up. His death triggered protests across the region and country over incidents of police violence and misconduct toward people of color. Unrest, including looting and a multitude of shootings and murders followed for months in the St. Louis region.
Police released security camera footage of Brown robbing a store just prior to his death.
Video shows Brown, in red hat, robbing store, assaulting store owner:
Forensic evidence contradicts witnesses who say Brown was running away. The documents, were obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and analyzed by two experts not directly involved in the case. The information supports Wilson’s claims that Brown had reached inside his police SUV and struggled for his gun, resulting in Wilson firing twice, hitting Brown once in the hand.
Moments later, as the struggle moved outside the vehicle, Wilson fired the fatal bullets that sparked a national controversy.
The newspaper had St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham, who is not part of the official investigation, review the autopsy report, and he determined that it “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car” including a shot that hit Brown’s right hand. Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco who also reviewed the documents, concurred that the autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun” and that it did not support claims Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.
The toxicology test. also obtained by the newspaper and performed by a St. Louis University laboratory, revealed marijuana in Brown’s blood and urine. Alfred Staubus, a consultant in forensic toxicology at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, told the newspaper THC could impair judgment or slow reaction times but that there was no reliable measurement to make those conclusions.
Bell’s office quietly reopened the investigation about five months ago.
“We made a point to not only not involve any local police, prosecutors in our office, staff in our office who were here at the time,” he said. “We did not announce this or even let them know. As a matter of fact, you all know more than the attorneys in the office because we did not want that outside influence. We did not want anyone on any side being able to try and push us in any direction. We wanted to make this an independent re-investigation.”\
The Obama Justice Department cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing and a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict him.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice