Prosecutor Wesley Bell – recently elected to a reform platform – said his office was conducting a five-month independent hearing of the case and decided there was not enough evidence to bring charges.
“This is one of the most difficult things I had to do as an elected official,” Bell, Cherno’s first district attorney, told a news conference Thursday. “The death of Michael Brown has exposed the nation to deep and long-standing pain in the greater community of St. Louis and throughout the country.”
Bell said his office reviewed witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence to determine if they could prove Wilson committed murder or murder.
“The only question is whether we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed,” Bell said. The answer to this question is no.
But the investigation “does not acquit Darren Wilson,” he added.
Brown was 18, a recent high school graduate, when Wilson ran into him and a friend on the street in Ferguson. Wilson later testified that he answered a call for theft from a nearby store. A fight ensued that led to a chase along the way and ended when Wilson shot Brown at least six times, claiming he did it in self-defense. Authorities left Brown’s body on the street hours after the shooting.
Bell’s predecessor, Robert McCulloch, did not charge Wilson and instead sent the case to a grand jury, which refused to charge Wilson, who resigned from the department days later.
The Justice Department also declined to press charges, but investigators published a disgusting report on the Ferguson police department and judiciary, accusing law enforcement of a “model of unconstitutional policing” and actions that “reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias.”
After Bell took office in 2019, Brown’s family and civil rights activists urged him to re-investigate, and the prosecutor reopened the case earlier this year. Bell’s announcement angered some of Ferguson’s longtime activists, who criticized him for not going beyond McCulloch.
“I should believe that the criminal system was once built to protect blacks from disappointment,” tweeted Brittany Packnet Cunningham, a Ferguson activist and member of President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Police Task Force. . “I finally sat down to run around and it hit me that I had no more shock. The #Mike Brown family deserves so much more. “
Ashley Yates, who was the organizer in Ferguson when Brown was killed, responded to Bell’s press conference, announcing the decision on Twitter: “Not a word about eliminating police killings. No effort to limit their ability to kill. ”
As Bell left the podium, a man in a shirt that read, “Wesley Bell doesn’t care about blacks,” shouted that residents would vote the prosecutor out of office, as they did with McCulloch.
“It’s over,” he said as police removed him from the briefing. “One term!”