Justice Department said ready to clear Ferguson officer: NY Times

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP Source: FBI Completes Federal Probe of Ferguson Shooting.

The FBI has completed its investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, a U.S. official said Wednesday. Darren Wilson — the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who sparked national outrage when he fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown — will not be charged for civil rights abuses by the Department of Justice, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Officials say the department is drafting a memo recommending no charges be brought against the white officer involved in the shooting that prompted protests across the country. The newspaper’s report cites unnamed law enforcement sources as saying the investigation by the FBI found no evidence to support such charges against Wilson, whose fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 touched off protests and civil unrest in Ferguson and around the nation. 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 case is now in the hands of federal prosecutors and a final decision is expected sometime before Attorney General Eric Holder leaves office in the next several weeks. The timing of his departure is dependent on the confirmation of nominee Loretta Lynch, who is scheduled for hearings next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. When a local grand jury opted to not indict Wilson in November, the Justice Department investigation remained a hope for Brown’s family and others who believed Wilson should be charged in Brown’s death.

Wilson has said that after he told Brown and a friend to move off a street to a sidewalk, Brown punched him, reached for his gun during a struggle, then charged him, causing Wilson to shoot Brown in self-defense. Civil rights charges in the past have been brought in high-profile, police-involved cases with racial overtones — specifically the 1991 Rodney King beating, which resulted in federal convictions for two of the four Los Angeles officers charged. Justice Department officials have said that in both cases, after local grand juries declined to indict, investigators must meet a high legal bar to charge officers with civil rights violations. “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York,” Obama said. “But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Michael Brown’s family, told USA TODAY Wednesday that neither he nor the Brown family has been informed of the Justice Department’s decision. “The last we heard from them, they were still investigating,” Crump said. “We won’t respond to rumors and speculation because it’s too much to put the family through. 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. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson’s city jail, in addition to other potentially discriminatory policing techniques and tactics that are brought to light,” Holder has said of the probe. Louis County grand jury decision in November, followed closely by a December Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury decision to clear a white officer in the choke-hold death of another black man, Eric Garner, touched off national protests and a re-examination of police tactics and law enforcement’s interactions with minority communities.

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.

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