The Department of Justice will not charge former Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson with federal civil rights violations in the racially-charged shooting death of Michael Brown.
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the Department stated in a report released Wednesday after officials met with Brown’s family.
Wilson, who is white, shot the black 18-year-old during a struggle in the middle of the street last August. A St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to charge Wilson in the shooting set off massive protests, rioting and looting in the area and around the country.
Attorney General Eric Holder commenced a federal probe into the shooting shortly after it occurred to see whether Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights.
In the report, the DOJ rejected some witness statements that suggested Brown was in a state of surrender when Wilson opened fire. Wilson claimed that Brown punched him and reached for his gun during a struggle inside his patrol vehicle. After Brown ran, Wilson claimed that the man doubled back and began running toward him. Wilson opened fire, hitting Brown with six or seven bullets.
“Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson,” DOJ’s report reads, according to The New York Times.
Those witness claims sparked the phrase “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which caught on in various protests over police brutality. A man who was with Brown when he was shot — Dorian Johnson — is the origin of the claim that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender when Wilson shot him. Other witnesses disputed that claim.
“Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts,” DOJ’s report also found.
Last week, Holder lamented what he claims is a high bar for federal civil rights and hate crimes prosecutions. He suggested that he plans to address that high threshold before he leaves office, a move that is expected to happen sometime this month. (RELATED: Eric Holder Wants To Lower Federal Hate Crime Standards; Suggests Kids Read Malcolm X)
“I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that’s something that I am going to be talking about before — before I leave office,” Holder told Politico’s Mike Allen.
Earlier this week, the Department of Justice concluded another investigation centered on Ferguson. In that case, the Department concluded that the Ferguson police department has engaged in a pattern of racial bias against black residents in the town.