FERGUSON, Mo. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Attorneys for Michael Brown’s family say the process that led to a white officer not being indicted in the fatal shooting of the unarmed, black 18-year-old was unfair and broken.
Attorney Benjamin Crump said at a news conference Tuesday that attorneys objected to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s decision to call a grand jury and not appoint a special prosecutor.READ MORE: COVID Vaccine In New York: With Thousands Of Appointments Now Available, Some Local Leaders Voice Concerns About Vaccine Hesitancy
Crump also said, “We could see what the outcome was going to be, and that is what occurred last night.”
The decision by the nine white and three black grand jury members means that Officer Darren Wilson will not face any state criminal charges for killing Brown. Their decision was based on 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses.
Attorney Anthony Gray said the decision was a “direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence,” and criticized what he called “cynicism” in the questions found in the grand jury documents.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said McCulloch “went out of his way” to discredit Michael Brown at his news conference.
“I’ve never seen a prosecutor hold a press conference to discredit the victim,” he said.
Sharpton also criticized those who committed violence Monday night, saying they were not on Brown’s side.
“If you’re on Michael Brown’s side, you walk with dignity. If you’re on Michael Brown’s side, you stand up with pride and call to uphold the law,” he said. “If you do anything to harm others, you’re on your own side, not Michael Brown’s side.”
Wilson’s lawyers issued a statement praising the decision and saying the officer, who has remained out of the public eye since the shooting, is grateful to his supporters.
“Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions,” the lawyers wrote. “Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.”
Businesses Torched In Overnight Protests
Missouri’s governor tripled the number National Guardsmen in Ferguson on Tuesday, from 700 to 2,200, to keep order after a night of violence over the grand jury’s decision.
“We are asking that the governor make available and deploy all necessary resources to prevent the further destruction of property and the preservation of life in the city of Ferguson,” Ferguson Mayor John Knowles said.
There were about 25 fires set overnight and 10 cars burned at a dealership, Ferguson Assistant Fire Chief Steve Fair said. A pizza shop, beauty supply store and two auto parts stores were among the places where fires were set.
Authorities reported hearing hundreds of gunshots, which for a time prevented fire crews from fighting the flames. CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca ducked for cover as a demonstrator fired shots in the air close to where he was reporting.
Some Ferguson stores that weren’t burned had smashed display windows. At least 18 people were injured and sought treatment at area hospitals.
Police responded with tear gas.
There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing, St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said.
Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said that unless his agency could bring in 10,000 officers, “I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”
McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
“They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence,” he said, adding that the jurors “poured their hearts and soul into this process.”
As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.READ MORE: 8 People Killed In Mass Shooting At FedEx Facility In Indianapolis
Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, a defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous witness accounts. When asked by a reporter whether any of the accounts amount to perjury, he said, “I think they truly believe that’s what they saw, but they didn’t.”
McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed when he was killed.
Brown’s family released a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” but asked that the public to “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson’s testimony.
Wilson told jurors that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and, when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive. Wilson then noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, “and that’s when it clicked for me,” he said, referring to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store.
Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional police, and then backed his vehicle up in front of Brown and his friend. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said Brown slammed it back shut.
The officer said he pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking, “What do I do not to get beaten inside my car?”
“I drew my gun,” Wilson told the grand jury. “I said, ‘Get back or I’m going to shoot you.’
Describing the struggle at one point between himself and Brown, Wilson said, “His hands were inside on me” and “he entered my vehicle with his hands, arms, and his head, assaulting me.”
Asked why he felt the need to pull his gun, Wilson told grand jurors he was concerned another punch to his face could “knock me out or worse.”
After shots were fired in the vehicle, Brown fled and Wilson gave chase. At some point, Brown turned around to face the officer.
Witness accounts were conflicted about whether Brown walked, stumbled or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded, McCulloch said. There were also differing accounts of how or whether Brown’s hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson’s vehicle.
Rallies Held Across U.S.
Thousands of people rallied, mostly peacefully, in other U.S. cities Monday night.
In New York City, hundreds of protesters gathered in Union Square and then marched to Times Square, where they held a rally.
Police said that protesters briefly shut down the Robert F. Kennedy and Brooklyn bridges.
One person was arrested for throwing red paint that struck Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his security detail in the face and body.
President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding Monday night, pleading with both protesters and police to show restraint.
“We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” Obama said. He said it was understandable that some Americans would be angered, but echoed Brown’s parents in calling for peaceful protests.
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, Brown’s family could also file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.
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