Justice Department Set To Clear Darren Wilson Of Civil Rights Charges In Michael Brown Shooting

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

The Justice Department is preparing to clear Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson of violating the civil rights of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Wilson fatally shot in August, The New York Times reports.

Federal law enforcement officials are putting the finishing touches on a legal memo recommending that Wilson not face charges, which would have required the Justice Department to show that Wilson intended to violate the civil rights of Brown — who is black — when he opened fire.

According to The Times’ federal law enforcement sources, the FBI did not uncover any fresh evidence that local authorities had not already discovered during their own investigation.

The Justice Department conducted its own autopsy on Brown and used federal resources to conduct forensic analysis.

Otherwise, the investigations relied on most of the same witnesses and the same audio and video evidence.

A St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November, a decision which set off days of protests and rioting.

Some eyewitnesses claimed that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender and pleading with Wilson before being fatally shot. Others said they saw Brown move towards Wilson even as the officer was commanding him to stop.

Wilson fired 12 shots — six or seven of which struck Brown.

The shooting occurred moments after Wilson had drove upon Brown and a friend, Dorian Johnson, walking down the middle of the street in Ferguson.

Wilson claims he asked the two to walk on the sidewalk. After a verbal exchange, he says Brown punched him while he was still inside his police SUV. During the struggle, Wilson said that Brown reached for his service weapon. Two shots were fired inside the vehicle during that struggle.

Brown ran from the vehicle after the shots were fired. Wilson pursued, and Brown eventually turned around. Wilson claimed that he opened fire when Brown began running at him.

Minutes before the encounter, Brown and Johnson had left a nearby convenience store where Brown had pushed a store clerk and stolen a box of cigars.

Wilson’s clearance will be perhaps the last high-profile decision to come out of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. Holder announced his retirement late last year.

A separate federal investigation, this one into whether the Ferguson Police Department has engaged in a pattern of civil rights abuses, is still being conducted, according to The Times.

Follow Chuck on Twitter