Darren Wilson won’t be charged in Michael Brown’s death, prosecutor announces

Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the county’s prosecutor announced Thurday.

“This is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as an elected official,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said at a news conference Thursday. “Although this case represents one of the most significant moments in St. Louis’ history, the question to this office is 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? After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did.”

The significance of the case and requests from Brown’s family prompted Bell’s office to quietly reopen an investigation about five months ago, but the office did not have enough evidence to disprove a self-defense claim in trial, Bell said.

Wilson, a white officer, shot and killed the 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, in the middle of a street in Ferguson, Missouri. Police left the Black teenager’s body in the street for more than four hours, igniting outrage across the country and day after day of angry, sometimes violent protests in Ferguson.

The timing of Thursday’s announcement was tied to the conclusion of the investigation, Bell said.

Bell added that his decision does not exonerate Wilson, whose lawyer could not be reached Thursday. Wilson resigned from the police department in November 2014.

“There is (sic) so many points in which Darren Wilson could have handled the situation differently, and if he had, Michael Brown might still be alive,” Bell said. “But that is not the question before us.”

Bell’s predecessor, Robert McCulloch, reviewed the evidence in the shooting and convened a grand jury. The jury ultimately declined to indict Wilson, reigniting widespread protests.

Bell’s win in the 2018 Democratic primary for St. Louis County prosecutor was among the biggest changes in the aftermath of Brown’s death. Critics of McCulloch consistently said they did not trust the grand jury process under him.

Last year, on the five-year anniversary of Brown’s death, his family demanded Bell’s office reinvestigate the killing.

Until Thursday, Bell had dodged questions about whether his office would reopen the case. Just a few people were aware the investigation had been reopened, he said, in an effort to protect it and shield it from outside influence.

“We didn’t want to create a circus if we announced that we were looking at it,” he said.

Bell said he met with Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, on Thursday before the public announcement.

“I know this is not the result that they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever,” he said.

Toward the end of Bell’s announcement Thursday, activist Tory Russell, 36, wearing a T-shirt that said “Wesley Bell doesn’t care about Black people” berated Bell for the decision, calling his office corrupt for hiring “dirty cops” and telling him he wouldn’t get reelected.

“We got Bob McCulloch out only to replace him with the Black Bob McCulloch,” Russell, who is Black, said in an interview after the announcement. “He just dresses nicer. He’s Black. That’s it. That’s what we got. That’s all it is, is injustice. All it is is injustice dressed up in blackface.”

A few dozen activists and Ferguson residents gathered Thursday night at the apartment complex where Brown was killed. A small memorial was built to commemorate Brown.

About 30 demonstrators then went to Ferguson Market and Liquor, where Brown shoved a store clerk prior to his fatal interaction with Wilson. The store has been the scene of several protests in the years since Brown’s death, as protesters said the store’s surveillance video mischaracterized Brown and the store should have done more to say so.

Demonstrators on Thursday called for a boycott of the store, and as would-be customers approached, protesters told them the store was closed.

Brown Sr., the father of the younger Brown, came to the market and spoke with protesters late Thursday. He declined comment to the Post-Dispatch.

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