Grand Jury Decides Not To Indict Officer In Ferguson Shooting Death
FERGUSON, Missouri - A St. Louis County grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed, by Wilson, a white police officer, unleashed a flurry of protests in Ferguson. The initial demonstrations triggered a forceful police response that drew criticism from community activists.
On Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered at several locations in the Ferguson area, as well as in other cities around the country, anticipating the grand jury decision.
There has been sporadic violence reported including vandalism and looting. In one incident, protesters vandalized a St. Louis County Police squad car. County police, who are leading the law enforcement efforts in Ferguson, said they deployed smoke canisters and pepper spray to break up crowds. CBS News crews on the ground said they were feeling affects similar to tear gas.
There were also reports of gunshots in the are of the Ferguson Police Department.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced the decision Monday evening. A grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence. The panel met for 70 hours and heard from 60 witnesses.
McCulloch stressed that the grand jurors were "the only people who heard every witness ... and every piece of evidence." He said many witness presented conflicting statements that ultimately were inconsistent with the physical evidence.
"These grand jurors poured their hearts and soul into this process," McCulloch said.
Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., said in a statement released by their attorney: "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen."
The parents went on to say, "We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."
As the decision was announced, McFadden was seen breaking down outside the Ferguson Police Department.
Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, wearing sunglasses, reacts as she listens to the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.
A week ago, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, saying the National Guard would be deployed to assist police if necessary.
The disputed circumstances surrounding the death brought global notoriety to the St. Louis suburb, where the majority of the population is black but the police force is predominantly white.
The grand jury could have indicted Wilson on one of five charges:
First-degree murder: Knowingly causing a death after deliberation; punishable by either life in prison or lethal injection.Second-degree murder: Knowingly causing a death, or acting with the purpose of causing serious physical injury that ends up resulting in death; punishable by life in prison or a range of 10 to 30 years.Voluntary manslaughter: Causing a death "under the influence of sudden passion arising from adequate cause"; punishable by five to 15 years in prison. First-degree involuntary manslaughter: Recklessly causing a death; punishable by up to seven years in prison. Second-degree involuntary manslaughter: Acting with criminal negligence to cause a death; punishable by up to four years in prison.
Wilson, who is on paid administrative leave, has remained in seclusion throughout the investigation. His lawyers released a statement shortly after the decision was released.
"Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law," part of the attorneys' statement read. "We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury's decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently published audio recordings of police radio communication before and after the shooting that showed that the encounter between Wilson and Brown took less than 90 seconds. However, the audio failed to answer many crucial questions about what actually happened.
In the recordings, a dispatcher can be heard reporting a "stealing in progress" and a physical description of the suspect, who was believed to have stolen cigars. Officers were told the suspect was running from a convenience store with a second man. Ferguson police subsequently released surveillance video of the convenience store theft, identifying Brown as the suspect.
Wilson asked the officers searching for the robbery suspects if they needed assistance. An officer responded that the men had disappeared. Two minutes later, Wilson radioed in: "Put me on Canfield with two. And send me another car."
Wilson reportedly told investigators that he instructed Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson to stop walking in the street. Wilson said he then recognized that Brown matched the suspect's description, called for backup and stopped his SUV next to the two men.
What happened next remains unclear.
Wilson said Brown attacked him. Some witnesses have said Wilson and Brown struggled, either outside or inside the officer's SUV. Others said they saw Brown with his hands over his head, getting on the ground.
At the end of the audio, an unidentified officer says: "Get us several more units over here. There's gonna be a problem." A woman can be heard crying in the background.
Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also released video that showed Wilson leaving a St. Louis-area hospital shortly after the shooting. In the video, Wilson appears to be uninjured -- even though police originally reported that the officer had suffered an orbital eye socket "blowout."
"We don't see him holding his eye anywhere in that video," said Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, who added that "it would appear the initial descriptions of his injuries were exaggerated."
The Justice Department is investigating the Ferguson Police Department for possible civil rights violations, including whether officers there use excessive force and engage in discriminatory practices. Last month, a source told CBS News that Attorney General Eric Holder was "exasperated" by what he called "selective leaks" - which appeared to support Wilson - in the case.
The New York Times reported that Wilson told investigators he "feared for his life"after Brown tried to grab his gun. An official autopsy report published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed that Brown had been shot at close range, and that Brown had marijuana in his system when he died.
On August 25, thousands gathered in St. Louis for Brown's funeral, where the teenager was remembered as a "gentle soul" with ambitions that one day "the world would know his name."