Justice Department's Darren Wilson Decision Is Not What Many Were Hoping For
Following a six-month-long civil rights investigation led by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice won't press charges in the shooting of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager from Ferguson, Missouri. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department is currently working on a legal memo acknowledging that no civil rights violations were made in Brown's death at the hands of white Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. A St. Louis County grand jury previously declined to press charges against Wilson in November 2014, sparking more unrest in the small, predominantly African-American St. Louis suburb.
The New York Times said it talked with three law enforcement officials, speaking anonymously because of the nature of the case. FBI investigators reportedly found no evidence to support pressing charges against Wilson, who testified that he shot Brown at least eight times in self-defense after the teenager allegedly engaged him in a physical fight. The Justice Department has plans to release a report on its findings, including its collection of evidence, but it's unclear at this time when that report will be released.
The Justice Department's decision will officially clear Wilson of any wrongdoing, but it won't leave the Ferguson Police Department off the hook just yet. A broader civil rights investigation into the Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces is still ongoing.
Brown's death on Aug. 9 inspired a nationwide movement against excessive police force on young black men and women. But the details of Brown's shooting were dragged through both media and judicial scrutiny, and the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson for killing an unarmed teenager further drove a wedge between African-American communities and local law enforcement officers across the country.
The non-indictment of Wilson also coincided with a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to press charges against New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly placed 43-year-old Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold last July. Garner's and Brown's death have come to shape the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, with protests still ongoing from the East Coast to Ferguson to Oakland, California.
In addition to the broader civil rights probe against St. Louis police departments, the Department of Justice still has a pending investigation into Garner's chokehold death. According to CNN, FBI investigators are taking a "fresh look" at Garner's death, which happened in broad daylight on the streets of the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island. Garner was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes when he was approached by several police officers.
The FBI investigators are reportedly looking at how the officers and paramedics responded to Garner, who was crying, "I can't breathe," after Pantaleo wrestled him to the ground, still in the chokehold. Residents videotaped the entire incident, including Garner's death.
When announcing the federal investigation last December, Holder connected Brown's and Garner's untimely deaths, saying:
All lives must be valued. Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect. This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.
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