What The Darren Wilson Grand Jury Heard
The testimony that was most supportive of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s self-defense claim in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown came from a family who witnessed the shooting from a minivan, a man doing repair work and a couple visiting a family member in the area.
A 12-person St. Louis County grand jury decided to not indict Wilson on charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder, prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch announced Monday night. The announcement was followed by heavy looting and violence.
As McCulloch pledged in the event of a no bill decision, he released the complete body of evidence presented to the grand jury, which The Daily Caller scoured following the announcement.
“My initial thought was that, wow did I just see that young man kill a police officer,” testified a man known as Witness 10, who was doing repair work in the area during the incident.
He was describing the scene that unfolded inside of Wilson’s police SUV, which the officer was driving when he came upon Brown, 18, and his friend Dorian Johnson as they were walking in the middle of the street near the Canfield Green Apartments, where both men lived.
Wilson asked both to move out of the middle of the road.
That led to a physical altercation in which Wilson claims Brown began attacking him after he tried to leave the vehicle. He also says that Brown was trying to gain control of his firearm, which Wilson shot twice, striking Brown once in the hand.
When Brown fled, Wilson pursued — a decision he said dictated by his training to remove a threat. In his grand jury testimony Wilson said that he believed if he had let Brown go he may pose a threat to others in the community.
After pursuing Brown, the 18-year-old turned around. Eyewitness testimony was mixed on whether Wilson was shooting at Brown as he was fleeing. Some eyewitnesses also claimed that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender while Wilson continued firing. Others, including Wilson, have said that Brown continued moving toward Wilson in some manner and was not giving up.
“I could say for sure he never put his hands up after he did his body gesture,” Witness 10 testified, guessing that the body gesture was either Brown pulling his pants up or shrugging his shoulders.
He also said that Brown “ran towards the officer full charge.”
Even when Wilson resumed firing a second volley “Mike Brown was still coming toward the officer,” the man claimed, saying he thought Wilson was missing.
When Brown stopped, Wilson stopped firing, Witness 10 testified.
“When [Wilson] ceased fire, Mike Brown started to charge once more at him.”
The witness did not share his account with investigators at the scene, he said, because he was “very uncomfortable” at the scene of the shooting.
He said the crowd “began yelling racial slurs” at him so he contacted law enforcement several days later.
A family of five who drove up on the scene in their minivan also supported much of Wilson’s version of events.
“He was running kind of towards the officer,” testified a woman driving the minivan, who was in the vehicle with her husband, two daughters and her granddaughter.
“I couldn’t be sure if he was running exactly towards the officer or just trying to run past him,” she said, claiming that she heard Wilson yell “get down” several times before he fired.
The woman’s husband offered similar testimony.
“I thought he was trying to charge him at first because the only thing I kept saying was ‘is he crazy’?” the man said of Brown.
Brown “looked like he could have been attacking [Wilson],” he testified, adding that he believed Wilson “could have felt like [Brown] was attacking him.”
He also claimed that Brown had his hands down to his sides and took three or four steps toward Wilson before the officer fired the shots that killed Brown.
One of the couples’ daughters, who was in the backseat of the minivan but said she could see out of the windshield, testified that “Michael turned around charged towards” Wilson. His hands were drawn up in a fist and running towards the officer “almost like in football,” the woman claimed.
She said that Wilson was yelling “stop, stop, stop” while backpedaling before firing.
One couple who was visiting in-laws in the area provided testimony that was partially sympathetic to Brown, but also supported elements of Wilson’s claims.
“Why don’t they just get on the sidewalk?” a woman said she asked her husband when they drove upon Brown and Johnson walking in the middle of the road, anticipating Wilson’s issue with the two men.
The woman said that Brown’s hands were out to his side and facing forward when he was moving toward Wilson.
“Did they ever go up?” the assistant prosecuting attorney asked.
“No,” the woman said, recalling that Brown’s hands were out to the side and facing forward.
“I asked my husband … why won’t that boy stop,” said one woman.
Her husband also wondered why Brown continued to move toward Wilson as the officer fired.
“He walked out in the middle of the street with his hands up to his sides, that’s when, you know, he took a couple of steps and the officer fired,” the man testified.
“And me and my wife were like, why is he walking?” he said.
That man’s brother, whose house the couple was visiting, offered testimony that was more supportive of Brown.
That difference, between residents of the Canfield area of Ferguson and those outside it, was a prominent feature of the grand jury testimony. Residents of that area of Ferguson, which has more crime and poverty that the rest of the town, offered testimony that was more supportive of Brown while witnesses from outside the area were more likely to offer testimony supportive of Wilson.
The most prominent exception to that is two landscapers who said they had a conversation with Brown shortly before the shooting. They both testified that Brown was holding his hands up when Wilson fired the fatal shots.
The main drawback to their testimony was that they were unable to see Wilson as he fired his final shots because a building obscured their view.
Many of the witnesses whose statements supported Brown were called into question by the St. Louis County assistant prosecutors presenting the case to the grand jury. One witness initially told authorities that he saw Wilson fire four or five shots into Brown as he lay dead on the ground. He revised that tally down to one shot, though no forensic evidence supported that claim.
One woman whose boyfriend saw the shooting unfold used his eyewitness account as her own. She told two teams of FBI investigators that she witnessed the shooting unfold even though she did not. She said she did so because she wanted to get her boyfriend’s story out and because she wanted to be a part of the case. She was granted immunity by the Department of Justice to come clean about lying.
In his Sept. 16 testimony, Wilson stated that he was certain Brown was going to kill him.
“When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” Wilson said of their struggle inside the police cruiser.
“The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked,” Wilson claimed.
He said that Brown’s hand was trying to get on the trigger guard of his gun. Brown was also angling the gun toward Wilson’s hip, he testified, estimating that Brown punched him about 10 times, twice in the face.
Wilson blocked many of those blows, he said. Pictures taken after the shooting do not show any apparent injuries to Wilson’s face outside of minor swelling.
Wilson testified that after Brown had run away and then circled back towards him, he was reaching under his shirt, perhaps toward his waistband. He also said Brown was grunting aggressively despite the gun fire attempts to keep him at bay.
“At this point it almost looked like he was bulking up to run through the shots,” Wilson testified, adding “like it was making him mad I was shooting him.”
“I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me.”
In his announcement of the grand jury decision, prosecutor McCulloch said that he is legally forbidden from releasing a breakdown of how the grand jury voted. At least nine grand jury members would have had to agree on a charge in order to indict Wilson. The grand jury’s demographic breakdown was six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man.
At least a dozen businesses and vehicles were burned during the riots that followed Monday’s announcement. Numerous stores were looted, as dozens of gun shots rang out through the night.
This post has been edited for clarity.