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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Grand jury does not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jurys decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Mo. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cristina Fletes-Boutte, Pool)

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Mo. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cristina Fletes-Boutte, Pool)

The decision of a St. Louis grand jury to not indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown was announced by prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch on Nov. 24. The case has been highly publicized, generating widespread protests and conversation about police brutality and racism.

“The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened,” said McCulloch.
The jury heard from approximately 60 witnesses, investigator testimony, and crime and ballistics experts, and they saw hundreds of evidence photographs.

“[The burden of the jury] was to determine, based on all the evidence, whether or nor probable cause existed for Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown.” The law authorizes officers to use deadly force in certain situations, but also authorizes all people the same right. The grand jury considered whether or not Wilson was the initial aggressor.

On Aug. 9 in Ferguson, MS, Officer Darren Wilson encountered Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson. The two were walking in the center of the road, coming from Ferguson Market, where Brown had forcibly stolen Cigarillos, as seen in the store’s surveillance video.

After a verbal back-and-forth Wilson began to suspect Brown of the theft, as revealed in his testimony. 
A physical altercation between the officer and Brown through the driver’s side window of the squad car ensued, the details of which vary between witnesses. Some said that no part of Brown entered the car. Swelling is seen on Wilson’s face in photos taken later that day.

Wilson said that Brown tried to wrestle control of the officer’s firearm. The account of onlooker Johnson contradicts this. During the struggle the officer’s gun fired twice. Brown’s blood was found inside the car, and there was an injury to his right thumb that was characteristic of a close-range shot.

After this, Brown fled and Wilson followed on foot. By Wilson’s account, he told Brown to stop running. It was when Brown turned and began “charging” him, with one of his hands “in his waistband and under his shirt” that Wilson said he began firing a succession of shots after repeatedly warning Brown.

Some witnesses said that Brown had his hands in the air. Some said that he never charged Wilson. Blood on the street supports this movement towards the officer.

“[Autopsy findings indicate] that Michael Brown had not received any injuries on the back of his body,” refuting claims that he was shot in the back while running away,” said McCulloch.

An unarmed Brown received six injuries from the total 12 bullets fired from Wilson’s gun. A shot hitting the top of his head was fatal. The 18-year-old had recently graduated high school and was described by teachers as a “gentle giant,” in an article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Reaction to the ruling in Ferguson was strong, and captured by media coverage and the online video feeds of citizens on the scene. The live stream of activist Basem Massari showed impassioned protestors in the streets, hemmed in by police officers and the National Guard using tear gas. Bullets were heard being fired. The sun rose the next day on the burned-out husks of two police cruisers and over a dozen smoldered buildings.

“The State of Missouri vs. Darren Wilson” differed from typical grand jury cases. The New York Times discusses these differences in their article, “What Happened in Ferguson?” The New York Times article points out that the case occurred over several months, instead of a handful of days. The grand jury heard from more witnesses and saw more physical evidence than is typical. Often, the person who could be charged does not testify, but Darren Wilson did so for four hours. Lastly, the New York Time’s article recognizes that all testimony and evidence were not kept secret, but revealed to the public after the case’s finish.