Triggering violent protests, fires, looting and more than 100 gunshots reportedly fired in escalating mayhem, a St. Louis County grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black teen Michael Brown Jr., the prosecutor’s office announced Monday evening.
Wilson, 28, shot and killed Brown on a Ferguson street Aug. 9 after a confrontation as the 18-year-old and a friend returned from a convenience store. Surveillance video released that day appeared to show Brown strong-arming a clerk at the store and stealing a box of cigars.
Some witnesses told media the 6’4″ and nearly 300-pound Brown, who was unarmed, had his hands raised in an attempt to surrender when he was killed. The growing narrative of an unarmed black teen shot to death by a white cop prompted rioting and looting in the Ferguson area. But subsequent leaks of grand jury evidence indicated Brown attacked and injured Wilson, and the officer feared for his life.
When St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced the decision, he said, the “duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction.”
Later in his announcement, he revealed the grand jury determined that no probable cause exists to indict Wilson. He emphasized the jurors are “the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence.”
“The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened,” he said.
McCulloch, who offered his sympathy to the Brown family, said 70 witnesses gave dozens of hours of testimony to the 12-person grand jury. The grand jury was comprised of six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man. Nine votes were needed to indict Wilson.
See video of the announcement:
In a statement made from the White House, President Obama said: “We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. I appeal to law enforcement to show caring and restraint in managing peaceful protests.”
He urged any protests to be peaceful, saying, “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.”
Obama added, “There are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”
“America isn’t everything that it could be,” the president said.
Watch a video of the Ferguson riots:
As the news broke, there were reports of shots fired, tear-gas deployed and Ferguson protesters attempting to flip a county police car. Fires were shown burning in Ferguson as Obama spoke. Some rioters threw bottles and rocks, and others looted Ferguson Market & Liquor Store, running out of the store with numerous bottles cradled in their arms. According to reports, the windows of a McDonald’s were smashed, and a Walgreens and Little Caesar’s Pizza were set ablaze. Protesters shut down I-44 in St. Louis.
Steve Harrigan of Fox News said rioters were yelling, “F— the police!” and “F— Fox News!”
St. Louis County police released records early Tuesday showed 61 people were arrested in Ferguson on charges including burglary and trespassing. Protesters also looted as many as 25 buildings and vandalized police cars, reported Fox News.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said 21 people were arrested in the city.
“We have no loss of life, but I am disappointed the night turned out this way,” St. Louis Police Department Chief Jon Belmar said.
In nearby Dellwood, rioters torched a row of cars at a car dealership and set several businesses on fire, reported CNN.
“The fire district does not feel safe coming out to put out fires because of the gunshots and the looting there taking place,” Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones said. “So they are refusing, basically, to come out and put these fires out.”
An entire row of businesses on West Florissant Avenue, a major thoroughfare in Ferguson, was engulfed in flames.
Looters broke into a beauty supply store and stole hair weaves and wigs, leaving the heads of mannequins strewn in the middle of the street.
On Tuesday morning, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered more Missouri National Guard members to Ferguson.
“The Guard is providing security at the Ferguson Police Department, which will allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public,” Nixon’s office said.
Obama called on police to use restraint: “They’ve got a tough job to do. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told Ferguson protesters: “As we continue to await word on the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing investigation, I urge all those voicing their opinions regarding the grand jury’s decision to do so peacefully. I also urge everyone to continue working to make positive changes that will yield long-term social, economic and spiritual benefits for all our communities.
“My commitment to the people of the region and state is this: I will do everything in my power to keep you safe and protect your right to speak. We must also make a commitment to one another: to trust more and fear less, to hold ourselves to a higher standard of personal responsibility and mutual respect, and to keep working to extend the promise of America to all our citizens.”
Upon hearing the decision, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, began crying and shouting, “What do you mean no indictment?!”
According to CBS News, she was escorted away from the Ferguson Police Department after the decision was delivered.
Brown’s parents issued the following statement:
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.
Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.
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.
A statement released by Wilson’s attorneys asked for calm: “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. Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family.”
Meanwhile, protesters who believed Wilson needed to be brought to trial protested in New York City. Some ran through the streets shouting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
In Los Angeles, a freeway was backed up for miles as protesters walked into traffic.
Schools already had canceled classes this week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Police officers and leaders of some 50 protest groups planning public protests already had agreed on “rules of engagement” after some protesters took to public areas shouting: “What do we want? Darren Wilson! How do we want him? Dead!”
See the video (warning, contains foul language):
The wife of one police officer told KTVI-TV she had received threats.
It also had been speculated that Wilson was in discussions to leave his post with the department, even though he maintains he did nothing wrong.
One group, calling itself the “Militant Resistance,” first offered $5,000 for details of Wilson’s whereabouts, because the officer had been in hiding ever since the shooting.
Gateway Pundit reported some black protesters flashed weapons in a video and threatened to kill “mother-f—ers” if the grand jury chose not to convict Wilson.
“Ni–as aint out here playin’ no more,” they said in a video. “We gonna bring it to your front door.”
Gateway Pundit said, “Tonight, media sources just notified The Gateway Pundit that the ‘Tactical Sh-t’ gang members were spotted in Ferguson.”
And citizens making their own defense plans sparked a surge in gun purchases. According to one report, Dan McMullen runs Solo Insurance, close to where the looting happened in August.
“I bring an extra gun now only because it has a bigger magazine,” McMullen said.
After reports leaked that the evidence supported Wilson’s version of the confrontation, New York Magazine said it “doesn’t look good for those hoping for criminal charges.”
But the shooting remained a focal point for Democrats trying raise turnout for the 2014 midterm elections.
“The people we elect on November 4th will be in charge of our police departments,” said one flier. “If we want to end senseless killings, like Michael Brown in Ferguson, we need to vote.”
The official autopsy showed Brown had marijuana in his system, was initially shot at close range and did not appear to have been killed while running away.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the grand jury had been told that Brown reached inside Wilson’s police car and struggled for the officer’s gun. That resulted in Wilson firing twice, hitting Brown once in the hand. Moments later, Wilson fired the fatal shots outside the vehicle.
The leaked information said the FBI found blood from the teen on an inside panel of the car and on the officer’s gun. The report said Wilson claimed he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life during the struggle.
Some witnesses stated Brown was shot while raising his hands to surrender, but the autopsy indicated his hands were at his side.
On Aug. 21, WND reported a noticeable drop in protest activity came after a media decision to pull out of Ferguson as word circulated that Brown had injured Wilson in a struggle to get the officer’s pistol.
On Aug. 22, WND reported public officials were milling about protesters, bracing the community for the possibility that Wilson would not be charged with murder.
A St. Louis County Police Department officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told WND that department reports confirmed Wilson was injured in a struggle with Brown before the shooting.
“For Michael Brown to fight the police officer and try to take his gun away and then to say, ‘Don’t shoot me,’ that’s resisting arrest, and it’s a felony,” he said. “All you have to do is touch the officer’s gun and you’ve committed a felony.”
With additional reporting by Chelsea Schilling.