The Justice Department plans to close its civil rights investigation of Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and recommend not charging him for fatally shooting an unarmed black man this summer, officials told The New York Times.

The federal case against Wilson remains the last route of criminal recourse against him for his involvement in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. A state grand jury previously recommended that St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCullouch file no criminal charges against Wilson in November.


The Justice Department could charge Wilson if its investigation determines that he violated Brown’s civil rights. But many criminal justice experts say that the burden of proof for those charges is extremely high.

The DOJ declined to comment, and Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, told the Times he didn’t want to comment on speculation.

“It’s too much to put the family through to respond to every rumor,” he said. He previously said the Brown family might sue Wilson in civil court.

The deaths of Brown and Eric Garner, an unarmed black New Yorker who died after an officer grabbed him around the neck, sparked nationwide protests that charged the justice system with failing minority communities. That led prominent Democrats, including President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, to examine the criminal justice system. 

In the midst of the protests, a man assassinated two police officers in their squad car. That prompted even more criticism from police groups and many conservatives, who accused Obama and de Blasio of fostering resentment toward the police.

The Justice Department’s investigation into Garner’s death remains open, as does its investigation into the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman during an altercation. Martin’s death, and the volunteer’s acquittal in a criminal trial, also prompted public outcry and protests.