FERGUSON–Reports of violence are popping up after the announcement that a grand jury in Ferguson did not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
The St. Louis County Police Department announced on Twitter that shots had been fired across from the Ferguson Police Department. Also, several police cars were vandalized: one cruiser’s back window was shattered, while protesters tried to flip another, and a third was set on fire.
Protesters also threw batteries and rocks at officers, and there are reports of looting, according to police.
The grand jury only needed probable cause that a criminal act occurred on Aug. 9 to indict Wilson, not the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden required during a trial. Also, only nine of the 12 jurors needed to vote to indict Wilson for the indictment to go through.
Jurors deliberated for two days before making a decision. The votes of each grand juror cannot be revealed, so it will remain unknown if the grand jury was united in its decision to not indict.
Protesters began gathering hours before the announcement was due to be made, with more than 100 standing outside the courthouse holding signs reading things like “black lives matter.”
The family of Michael Brown made a statement following the announcement.
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.
The family finished by making a call to action: “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.” Brown’s parents will speak at a press conference on Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET.
President Barack Obama echoed the request that all protests be peaceful, quoting Brown’s father in saying that he didn’t want his son’s death to be in vain. “Michael’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should respect their wishes.”
According to St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, witnesses made false statements, either repeating rumors they heard on the street, or changing the story of what they saw. “The description of how Mr. Brown raised his hands is not consistent between witnesses,” he said.
After the results of the autopsy showed that Brown did not suffer any shots to his back–which would have made sense if statements that he was shot while running away were true–several witnesses recanted their statements. Brown’s blood and DNA were found on Wilson’s cruiser’s door.
“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,” MuCulloch said.
The investigation showed that, in all, Wilson fired 12 shots during the duration of the incident. The first two were fired while Wilson was still in the car, and at least one grazed Brown’s thumb. Brown then ran, and Wilson chased him. Both stopped, and Brown turned towards the officer. Wilson then fired “several more shots,” and Brown subsequently died.
McCulloch announced earlier in the day that all documents from the grand jury hearing would be released if the jury did not indict Wilson.
After the decision was announced, Wilson’s attorney released the following statement from the officer:
Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson.
From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on Aug. 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.
In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case. Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.
Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. 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.
On a side note, 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. Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.
The FBI is also investigating if there was a civil rights investigation, and the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the Ferguson Police Department’s internal investigation into the department’s use of force over the past four years. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”
Gov. Jay Nixon made the following statement regarding the decision:
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.
The town and area surrounding Ferguson prepared for riots before the decision was made. In Clayton, which is where the courthouse that the decision was announced is located, mailboxes were locked shut. Many stores closed early, possibly due to fear after there were several instances of looting after the initial incident in August.
For background of the case, you can see more stories here.