In the latest blow to civil rights leaders, the Department of Justice has cleared former officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The DOJ released a report on Wednesday stating that it won't bring federal civil rights charges against Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Brown, who was African-American, on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson was previously cleared of any criminal charges by a St. Louis County grand jury in November.
According to The Washington Post, the Justice Department concluded that Wilson’s actions "do not constitute a prosecutable violation." Wilson testified before the grand jury last fall that he acted in self-defense, saying he feared for his life once he encountered Brown. The Justice Department seemed to agree, stating that there wasn't enough evidence that could "disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety."
It's possible that Wilson thought Brown had a weapon, the reported noted, because Wilson "saw Brown reach his right hand under his T-shirt into what appeared to be his waistband." However, Brown was unarmed at the time.
The report also noted that Brown may not have had his hands raised in a surrender position when he was shot, despite several witnesses saying the teenager had his hands up. The Justice Department found the hands up description "inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence."
Attorney General Eric Holder opened the civil rights investigation into the controversial shooting within days of Brown's death, and even made an unprecedented trip to the small, impoverished suburb just north of St. Louis. The department conducted interviews with dozens of witnesses to Brown's interaction with Wilson and provided their own autopsy on the 18-year-old's body.
The refusal to press charges against Wilson comes a day after the Justice Department released information about a disturbing report concerning a second, independent investigation into the workings of the Ferguson Police Department. The report, which the DOJ will also publish on Wednesday, concluded that the police officers routinely harassed the city's African-American residents, who make up 67 percent of the Ferguson population.
In the broader Ferguson investigation, the Justice Department found that African-Americans were subjected to 90 percent of citations and 93 percent of arrests. The city's police force is also overwhelmingly white, giving way to possible systemic discrimination.
With the Justice Department's findings on Wilson, the case of Michael Brown's death is finally closed — though that doesn't necessarily mean closure. Brown's death, along with the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Ohio, has sparked a national movement to end police brutality and discrimination against people of color. And the movement, it seems, has truly just begun.
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