St. Louis County’s top prosecutor who strangely reopened the Michael Brown case after a Grand Jury found officer Darren Wilson innocent announced Thursday that he will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
It was nearly six years ago that a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Brown, a Black 18-year-old. Civil rights leaders and Brown’s mother had hoped that Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, the county’s first Black prosecutor, would reopen the case after he took office in January 2019.
“My heart breaks” for Michael’s parents, Bell said during a news conference. “I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever.”
Describing the announcement as “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” Bell said that his office conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence.
“The question for this office was a simple one. Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Micheal 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,” Bell said.
But, he said, “our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson.”
Wilson’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, didn’t immediately return phone and email messages from The Associated Press.
The August 2014 police shooting touched off months of riots and violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and made the St. Louis suburb synonymous with a national debate over hating the police.
“This is a time for us to reflect on Michael’s life, to support Michael’s family and to honor a transformative movement that will forever be linked to his name,” Bell said.
Bell — who took office in January 2019 as a reform-minded prosecutor promising to eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenders and to increase the use of programs that allow defendants to avoid jail time — faced no restrictions in re-examining Brown’s death for potential murder charges. Wilson was never charged and tried, so double jeopardy was not an issue. There is no statute of limitations on filing murder charges.
As the news conference drew to a close, one observer erupted in anger at Bell.
“It’s over! One term!” the man, who did not provide a name, screamed as the prosecuting attorney. Police officers gently led the man from the room.
Bell, a former Ferguson councilman, upset McCulloch, a staunch law-and-order prosecutor, in the 2018 Democratic primary and ran unopposed that November. Within days of taking office, Bell took steps to remove three veteran assistant prosecutors, including Kathi Alizadeh, who played a role in presenting evidence to the grand jury in the Ferguson case.
It’s sad that these rogue minority prosecutors just continue to put this officer through the ringer, tormenting his family for doing his job.
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