The police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown will not be charged, a St. Louis County grand jury announced Monday night. Darren Wilson, of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department shot unarmed Brown six times, killing him. He was 18.
The city of Ferguson has been bracing for the decision, with schools closed, local shops boarded up, and demonstrators gathering in the streets. Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in advance of the decision. On Monday evening, he activated the National Guard.
In the hours leading up to the decision, protesters began gathering around Ferguson and in cities around the country. Outside the Ferguson Police Department, a peaceful crowd chanted “indict that cop” and “no justice, no peace.” Last Thursday, Michael Brown’s father urged protesters to be peaceful, saying, “I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation, but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.”
The 12-person grand jury was considering four charges — first or second degree murder along with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. For the former, Officer Wilson, 28, could have gotten life in prison.
On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was walking down the street with a friend when police officer Darren Wilson stopped them. Eyewitness reports differed over what happened next, but Brown was shot six times and died. His body lay bleeding in the street for about four hours.
In his announcement Monday night, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch stressed how thorough the investigation was, and blamed the 24-hour news cycle and rumors on social media for complicating the investigation. He cited conflicting eyewitness reports and said that the decision not to indict was based on physical evidence.
A candlelight vigil for Brown the night he died brought thousands to the streets, and protests — largely peaceful — have continued in Ferguson and across the country ever since.