3 reasons Ferguson decision not a surprise; 3 options left to Brown family

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Civil rights charges unlikely against Ferguson cop in Brown case, official says.

Washington – The US Justice Department is about to close the investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and clear the white police officer involved of any civil rights charges, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Attorney General Eric Holder and his civil rights chief, Vanita Gupta, will have the final say on whether the Justice Department will close the case against the officer, Darren Wilson. The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown last August led to months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and galvanised critics of the treatment by police and the US criminal justice system of blacks and other minority groups. But officials and experts have said such a prosecution would be highly unlikely, in part because of the extraordinarily high legal standard federal prosecutors would need to meet. The incident touched off nationwide protests and debates about police force against minorities, especially after a grand jury in November declined to indict Wilson in the case.

Wilson, who said he was acting in self-defence when he fatally shot Brown, resigned from the Ferguson police force in November, citing threats against fellow officers after the grand jury decision. He said meaningful steps forward had been taken, and that $2.5 million would be spent to improve West Florissant Avenue, where several businesses were burned during the protests in late November. Mr Wilson, who shot Brown after a scuffle in the middle of a street, told the St Louis County grand jury that spent months reviewing the case that he feared for his life during the confrontation and that Brown struck him in the face and reached for his gun.

That standard, which means prosecutors must prove that an officer knowingly used more force than the law allowed, is challenging for the government to meet. President Barack Obama, Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, speaking about the issue in personal terms, said they understood the concern that minority neighborhoods had with the police. Multiple high-profile police-involved deaths, including the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, in New York City, have not resulted in federal charges.

Soon after the shooting, witnesses told reporters Brown had his hands up in a gesture of surrender when he was shot and killed by Wilson on a city street. Wilson told investigators Brown tussled with him through the window of his police car and tried to grab his gun, an account supported by bruises and DNA evidence. That investigation, which will examine potential racial bias among officers, has the potential to have more sweeping consequences than any individual criminal prosecutions, experts say.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Brown’s family, said in a statement that the family would not address speculation from anonymous officials and was waiting for an official Justice Department announcement. The U.S. attorney whose office is handling that investigation, Loretta Lynch, has been nominated to replace Holder and faces a Senate confirmation hearing next week. Though the local authorities and Brown’s family had autopsies done, Holder ordered a separate autopsy, which was conducted by pathologists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s Office at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the officials said. The federal investigation did not uncover any facts that differed significantly from the evidence made public by the authorities in Missouri late last year, the law enforcement officials said. Residents told investigators the police used traffic citations in minority neighborhoods as a way to raise money for the city. “These anecdotal accounts underscored the history of mistrust of law enforcement in Ferguson,” Holder said in September after returning from Ferguson, about 10 miles northwest of St.

Mayor James Knowles of Ferguson did not respond Wednesday afternoon to a phone call and email seeking comment about the broader federal investigation of his city’s police department. Jeff Small, a Ferguson spokesman, said city officials did not have any new information to share about either federal probe and would not comment on them.

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