The Department of Justice on Wednesday cleared former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson of committing any civil rights violations in the August 2014 shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown.
In an 80-plus page report, the DOJ said that there was no evidence that Wilson had the intent to kill Brown, nor was their any proof that the former officer didn’t fear for his safety.
The decision not to press charges comes after a long federal investigation into the case, which galvanized the local community and activists nationwide on the issue of police brutality and racial profiling of young people of color.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday, “This conclusion represents the sound, considered, and independent judgment of the expert career prosecutors within the Department of Justice. I have been personally briefed on multiple occasions about these findings. I concur with the investigative team’s judgment and the determination about our inability to meet the required federal standard.”
He added, “This outcome is supported by the facts we have found – but I also know these findings may not be consistent with some people’s expectations. To all those who have closely followed this case, and who have engaged in the important national dialogue it has inspired, I urge you to read this report in full.”
The Justice Department confirmed earlier on Wednesday that Brown’s family had been briefed on the findings of the report.
“While we are saddened by this decision, we are encouraged that the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling they found in their handling of interactions with people of color,” Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., said in a statement. “It is our hope that through this action, true change will come not only in Ferguson, but around the country. If that change happens, our son’s death will not have been in vain.”
The news comes as the DOJ has released a preliminary report indicating that it has found the Ferguson police department has enacted a pattern and practice of discriminatory arrests and fines that violated the federal law and civil rights of African Americans in Ferguson.
On Nov. 24, a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to charge Wilson with a crime in the death of Brown. Wilson argued that Brown was charging at him at the time of his death and that he feared for his life. Following a wave of protests and calls for intervention, the federal government opened its own investigation, but the bar for bringing a civil rights case against Wilson was always extremely high.
The DOJ report includes “evidence from witnesses, the autopsies and physical evidence from the analysis of the DNA, blood, shooting scene and ballistics. The report also explains the law as developed by the federal courts and applies that law to the evidence.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that “there was a tragedy that occurred in Ferguson,” on Wednesday.
“People, even if they have pretty divergent views of what took place would acknowledge that the taking of this young life was a tragedy,” he added.