Prosecutor Wesley Bell – recently elected to a reform platform – said his office conducted a five-month independent review of the case and determined there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
“This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as an elected official,” Bell, the county’s first black prosecutor, told a news conference Thursday. “Michael Brown’s death exposed to the nation a deep and lasting pain felt by the larger community of St. Louis and the entire 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 testify beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred,” Bell said. “The answer to that question is no.”
But the investigation “does not excuse Darren Wilson,” he added.
Brown was 18, a recent graduate, when Wilson confronted him and a friend on a street in Ferguson. Wilson later testified that he was answering a theft call from a nearby store. A fight ensued that led to a street chase and ended when Wilson shot Brown at least six times, claiming he did so in self-defense. Authorities left Brown’s body on the street for hours after the shooting.
Bell’s predecessor, Robert McCulloch, did not prosecute Wilson and instead sent the matter to a large jury, which refused to sue Wilson, who resigned from the department days later.
The Justice Department also declined to file charges, but investigators released a fraudulent report on Ferguson’s police department and judicial system, undermining law enforcement for an “unconstitutional policing model” and actions that “reflect and exacerbate existing prejudice.” racial “.
After Bell took office in 2019, Brown’s family and civil rights attorneys pushed him to investigate again, 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 further than McCulloch.
“I would have to believe that the criminal system was ever built to protect Black people in order to be disappointed,” tweeted Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a Ferguson activist and member of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Policing. 21st Century “I finally just got down from running and it hit me that I’m no longer shocked. The #MikeBrown family deserves so much more.”
Ashley Jates, who was an organizer in Ferguson when Brown was assassinated, responded to Bell’s news conference announcing the decision in a tweet: “Not a single word about eliminating police killings. Not a single attempt to limit their ability to kill. ”
As Bell left the podium, a man wearing a shirt writing, “Wesley Bell does not care about black people,” shouted that residents would vote for the prosecutor outside the office, as they would with McCulloch.
“It’s over,” he said as police escorted him from the conference room. “A term!”