St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell announced Thursday that he will not charge former police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
This decision is just one of three separate times, prosecutors have investigated and declined to charge Wilson. A St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November 2014, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2015.
Brown’s parents and St. Louis activists say when Bell, the county’s first Black prosecutor, took office last January, they had hoped he would be able to get them the justice they’ve been waiting for. Bell called the announcement “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” adding “my heart breaks” for Brown’s parents. “I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever,” the prosecutor said in a press conference.
Bell revealed in his statement that his office conducted a five-month-long, unannounced investigation. During which, they reviewed witness statements, forensic reports, and other evidence. “The question for this office was a simple one: Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law? After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did,” Bell said. But, “our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson,” he added.
Brown’s killing on August 9, happened when Wilson told Brown and his friend to get out of the street. A scuffle ensued between Wilson and Brown, which ultimately led to the shooting. Brown was not armed, but Wilson claimed Brown came at him menacingly, forcing him to fire in self-defense. Brown’s body remained in the street for four hours before being transported. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Much like George Floyd, the shooting lead to months of unrest in Ferguson and helped solidify the national Black Lives Matter movement that began following Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman in February 2012. After three investigations, Wilson’s attorney, Jim Towey, said it’s clear that the former officer didn’t commit any offense. “We all had the same conclusion: There was no crime,” he said. “I am just hoping that everybody gets to have some closure, particularly the Brown family.”
That closure for the Brown’s may be hard to come by, though. “There is still a gaping wound,” says Brittany Packnett Cunningham, educator, and BLM activist. “I’m not disappointed—I’m fed up and ever more committed, truth be told.” She also adds that nothing will change until the system itself does. Her thoughts were echoed by leading St. Louis activist, Rev. Darryl Gray, who says that the system is who truly failed Brown and his family, not Bell’s investigation.