One hundred and seven days after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, the nation learned last night that the officer will face no charges.
Violence broke out in the streets here Monday evening following news that a St. Louis County grand jury did not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Demonstrations that began peacefully in the wake of the announcement took a nasty turn as looters plundered local stores and protesters flipped cars and set buildings and police vehicles ablaze.County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision around 9:30 pm ET in a lengthy statement at the Justice Center in Clayton, the county seat. He said that while it was undeniable that Wilson had shot and killed Brown in an altercation on August 9, the grand jury “determined that no probable cause exists” to indict the white officer in the killing. “It doesn’t lessen the tragedy that it was a justifiable use of self-defense,” McCulloch added.
The scope of the ensuing violence is still coming into focus this morning, though there were many reports of fires, looting, gunfire, and clashes, with law enforcement using flares and ultimately tear gas.
President Obama made a rare evening address from the White House last night, joining Brown’s parents in calling for peaceful protests. “Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone,” the president said. “We should be honoring their wishes.”
Obama added, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change. But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”
The public also had its first opportunity to review extensive public documents examined by the grand jury before it made its decision.
Around the same time, Wilson issued a statement through his attorneys. It thanked supporters, but made no reference to Brown or his family.
As for what’s next, a Justice Department investigation is still underway. Beyond that, however, as Rachel noted on the air last night, “It’s hard to know where this goes.”