The Justice Department has cleared a Ferguson, Mo., police officer of civil rights violations in the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager whose death set off racially charged and sometimes violent protests last year.
The decision, which was announced on Wednesday, ends a lengthy investigation into the shooting last August, in which Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mr. Brown in the street. Many witnesses said Mr. Brown had his hands up in surrender when he died, leading to nationwide protest chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
But federal agents and civil rights prosecutors rejected that story, just as a state grand jury did in November. The Justice Department said forensic evidence and other witnesses backed up the account of Officer Wilson, who said Mr. Brown fought with him, reached for his gun, then charged at him. He told investigators that he feared for his life.
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report said.
The report found that witnesses who claimed that Mr. Brown was surrendering were not credible. “Some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witnesses’ own prior statements with no explanation,” it said.
“Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson,” it added.
“Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts.”
By MATT APUZZO – New York Times –