No charges for officer in Ferguson shooting

A Missouri grand jury has decided not to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the racially charged shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, announced Monday night that the jury had found no probable cause to file a cause of indictment against Wilson.

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The jury had considered five charges against Wilson, ranging up to first-degree murder.

McCulloch said that the grand jury met for 25 sessions over the course of three months, and that their deliberations took two days.

It was not clear whether McCulloch or his office asked for an indictment at any point during the proceedings.

Brown's family released a statement expressing its profound disappointment in the decision, but asked for demonstrators to keep their protests peaceful.

"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change," the family's statement said. "We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful."

The 12 jury members had spent weeks behind closed doors poring through evidence in the death of Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed at the time of the confrontation with Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.

Witnesses to the attack have provided conflicting accounts, with some saying Brown was shot as he surrendered or tried to flee. Other witnesses reportedly backed Wilson’s version of events, saying Brown assaulted the officer and reached for his gun before he shot him.

Jurors took an especially long time to consider the case, with Prosecutor Robert McCulloch vowing to present “absolutely everything” that was relevant.

In the end, the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to charge Wilson in the shooting — an outcome that Missouri officials fear could lead to unrest in Ferguson, which was rocked by days of protests after Brown’s death.

McCulloch gave reporters "a very general synopsis of the testimony and the physical evidence presented to the grand jury" at his press conference Monday.

The prosecutor said that shortly before Brown was shot, an individual had taken cigarillos from a convenience store. Video of the theft was caught on tape and later produced by the Ferguson Police Department in the weeks after the shooting. It appeared to show someone of Brown's description in the convenience store and grabbing a handful of cigarillos.

When Wilson encountered Brown and a friend walking in the street, McCulloch said, the officer asked them to move to the sidewalk. They did not. Wilson then saw that Brown was holding cigarillos, according to the prosecutor. He also saw that the teenager was wearing attire consistent with the description of one of the suspects from the convenience store. McCulloch said that Wilson then called for backup.

He said that Wilson used his car to block the path of Brown and his friend, and that an altercation then occurred with Wilson inside the vehicle and Brown outside the driver's side of the car. During the altercation, McCulloch said that Wilson fired two shots.

He said that Brown then ran down the street with Wilson chasing after him. Brown turned around, and Wilson stopped. Brown then moved toward Wilson, according to McCulloch, and Wilson fatally wounded him. A second police car arrived within seconds of the final shot being fired, he said.

McCulloch said that Brown's DNA had been found on the inside and outside of Wilson's car and on Wilson's clothing.

He said that Brown's body was 153 feet from Wilson's car. Brown's blood appeared 25 feet past his body, according to McCulloch.

McCulloch also said that witnesses had given varying accounts of the events around the shooting.

"Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown make statements inconsistent with other statements they had made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence," he said.

"Eyewitness accounts must always be challenged and compared against the physical evidence," he said.

He said that, in some cases, witnesses whose testimony had not aligned with physical evidence had not changed their accounts of the shooting throughout proceedings.

The prosecutor said that most evidence — with some exceptions — and the testimony that witnesses gave the grand jury would be released to the public.

McCulloch also addressed public disappointment.

"I'm ever mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some and may cause disappointment for others," he said. "But all decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence and the credible testimony corroborated by that evidence."

Before the decision was announced, protesters gathered on Ferguson’s streets near the police department to await the news, prompting fears of violence.

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) pleaded for restraint at a press conference hours before the decision.

Nixon had previously declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to respond to any possible protests. Local law enforcement has also formed a “unified command” to manage the response to the jury’s decision.

Anticipating unrest, Ferguson schools have already closed for the week.

Officials have said that they hope that any response to the verdict will remain peaceful. Pleas for nonviolence have come all the way from Washington, with President Obama and Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderGOP governor vetoes New Hampshire bill to create independent redistricting commission Why target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama legacy under spotlight after Detroit debates MORE urging restraint.

“Using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are,” Obama said in an interview Sunday.

The Ferguson shooting has become a flashpoint in the charged national debate over racial bias, police tactics and the use of military equipment by law enforcement, with civil rights groups arguing anything less than an indictment would be a miscarriage of justice.

The grand jury’s decision isn’t the end of the line for the Brown case; the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into the shooting and allegations of racial bias in the St. Louis Police Department.

This story was last updated at 10:48 p.m.