The prosecutor for St. Louis County on Thursday said his office will not bring charges against Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in an incident that helped launch the Black Lives Matter movement, citing a lack of concrete evidence to charge Wilson criminally in Brown's 2014 death.
"Although this case represents one of the most significant moments in St. Louis's history, the question to this office is 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," Wesley Bell said in a Thursday news conference, adding that his heart "breaks" for Brown's parents, who he said had asked him to revisit the case.
"I also want to be clear that our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson. The question of whether we can prove a case at trial is different than clearing him of any and all wrongdoing," said Bell, the county's first Black prosecutor, who won his 2018 election largely based on voters' rejection of his predecessor's handling of the Brown shooting.
The killing of 18-year-old Brown, who was Black, by Wilson, a white police officer, galvanized a growing movement against police brutality and systemic racism and birthed the rallying cry "Hands up, don't shoot."
The resulting protests defined Ferguson's summer and captured the national spotlight, drawing renewed attention to the issue of police violence in America.
Bell's predecessor as prosecutor had also decided no charges were possible. Later the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Wilson had shot Brown in self-defense.
Still, despite his and the DOJ's findings of no clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Bell said that Wilson could have handled the situation differently and avoided killing Brown.
"There are so many points at which Darren Wilson could have handled the situation differently. And if he had, Michael Brown might still be alive. But that is not the question before us. The only question is whether we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred. The answer to that question is no," Bell said.