A grand jury on Monday chose not to file criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.
The grand jury, which considered evidence for three months, had the option of returning a charge as severe as first-degree murder against Wilson, 28. They also had the option of a lesser charge, or no charge at all.
Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, announced the decision at a press conference. He said that some statements from witnesses to the Aug. 9 shooting were “completely refuted by the physical evidence.”
“Eyewitness accounts must always be challenged and compared against the physical evidence,” he said.
In a statement, the Brown family said: “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.”
Ferguson and neighboring communities were on edge ahead of the announcement. Several hundred people gathered at Ferguson police headquarters, chanting. Businesses boarded up windows, and schools closed early for the following day.
Police beefed up patrols, and Gov. Jay Nixon readied the National Guard. He pledged that law enforcement would focus on protecting lives, property and free speech.
“Our shared hope and expectation is that, regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint,” he said.
Charlie Dooley, the St. Louis County executive, was more blunt: “I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade doors and take up arms,” he said. “This is not a time to turn on each other. This is a time to turn to each other.”
The grand jury was composed of six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man, selected at random from St. Louis County, which is about 70 percent white. Ferguson, a city of 21,000 people, is about two-thirds black. It takes nine of 12 votes to indict.
— Trymaine Lee, Mary Murray and Erin McClam