Crime & Justice

Ferguson: Brown family blasts prosecutor; Mo. governor deploys more Guard troops (update)

The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, speaks during a press conference at Greater St. Marks Church as Michael Brown Sr. (second from left) and Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump (second from right) look on Nov. 25, 2014, in Dellwood, Missouri. Sharpton addressed the lack of an indictment from a grand jury considering charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown .
The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, speaks during a press conference at Greater St. Marks Church as Michael Brown Sr. (second from left) and Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump (second from right) look on Nov. 25, 2014, in Dellwood, Missouri. Sharpton addressed the lack of an indictment from a grand jury considering charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown .
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

On the day following news that a grand jury had declined to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, developments continued around the country, including word from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that a separate federal investigation was ongoing. Meanwhile, the family of Michael Brown addressed the media.

Local reaction to Ferguson decision

Update 1:12 p.m.: Brown family blasts prosecutor's handling of case 

Attorneys for the family of Michael Brown are vowing to push for federal charges against police officer Darren Wilson.

They're also renewing their calls for peace, after a night of violent protests in which several businesses in Ferguson were burned to the ground.

The protests followed the announcement by prosecutors that a grand jury had decided not to indict Wilson in the fatal shooting of the unarmed black 18-year-old.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the attorneys said the grand jury process had been rigged from start to finish in order to clear Wilson in the shooting death. They criticized the types of evidence the prosecutor presented, as well as the way it was presented and the timing of the grand jury's decision. (Scroll below to see details of the evidence.)

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered more National Guardsmen into Ferguson to help local law enforcement keep order. In addition to the 12 commercial buildings that were burned down last night, other businesses were looted and 12 vehicles were torched.

There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight — many for burglary and trespassing — and 21 in St. Louis. At least 18 people were injured and sought treatment at area hospitals.

—Associated Press

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Update 9:23 a.m.: AG Holder says federal investigation will remain independent

Attorney General Eric Holder says "far more must be done to create enduring trust" between police and communities they serve, even as his Justice Department continues to investigate possible discriminatory police actions in Ferguson, Mo.

Civil rights lawyers at Justice working alongside FBI agents have also been examining whether white officer Darren Wilson intentionally violated the civil rights of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the unarmed black man he shot dead Aug. 9.

Proving that Wilson, who was cleared Monday by a St. Louis County grand jury, violated federal criminal law will be difficult, DOJ veterans say.

But in the aftermath of the local grand jury announcement, Holder insisted the federal probe of the policeman is ongoing and independent of St. Louis prosecutors.

"And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions," Holder said.

Mediators from the Justice Department Community Relations Service have been on the ground in Ferguson trying to ease tensions since August. And the DOJ community-oriented policing unit has been trying to train local law enforcement to respect protesters and de-escalate tensions. Scattered violence and scenes of burning businesses in the area overnight Monday mean that work is far from complete.

Justice Department lawyers are making slow but steady progress on another facet of their task in Ferguson: investigating allegations of unconstitutional policing by law enforcement there.

Holder tipped his hand last month, publicly calling for "wholesale changes" in the Ferguson force. His DOJ investigators have opened more than two-dozen investigations into biased policing tactics and patterns of excessive force in places from Albuquerque to New Orleans to Newark.

Such cases often end in lawsuits or court-enforceable agreements to change hiring, training and traffic stop actions.

Vanita Gupta, the acting leader of the civil rights division at Justice, said at a news conference last month that the goal of such cases is to "ensure that the city has an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the respect of the public it is charged with protecting."

The issue is personal for Holder, the country's first black attorney general. He told NPR earlier this year he wanted to keep working to forge connections between police and minority communities even after he retires from public service next year.

—NPR

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Previously: Ferguson documents: How the grand jury reached a decision 

After sitting through hours of testimony and reading through thousands of pages of documents, a grand jury decided that there was not enough probable cause to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

Their decision, like the shooting that led up to all this, sparked violent protests overnight in Ferguson, Mo.

You can read the full grand jury documents at St. Louis Public Radio's website.

"The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction," the prosecuting attorney, Robert P. McCulloch, said in a televised address Monday night. After weighing the evidence, at least nine of the 12 members of the grand jury decided that Wilson acted within the limits of the lethal-force law.

In a rare move and in an attempt to allay concerns about bias, McCulloch made public the mountain of evidence presented to the grand jury. We're combing through the thousands of pages — including testimony from Wilson and many witnesses — and throughout the day, we'll update this post with the pieces that help explain how the jury reached its decision.

Last updated at 8:14 a.m. witness testimony:

Leading up to this decision, witness testimony has been hotly debated — so much so that the symbol of this story has become protesters raising their hands, symbolically telling police, "Hands up, don't shoot."

We have documents of dozens of witness interviews. If you listened to McCulloch last night, much of this jury's decision came down to whether Brown was charging Wilson or surrendering or running away.

As we've detailed in another post, it's really complicated. Some witnesses say Wilson started shooting after he got out of the car, some say he started shooting inside the car. Some say Brown was very clearly surrendering, others say it didn't look like he had been hit at all.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain all of this is to take a close look at Witness 14.

Without a doubt, Witness 14 is sympathetic to Brown, whom he had run into in the past.

"[Brown] was to me, and I'm going to say it, he was executed," the witness said. "[Wilson] had made up his mind he was going to kill him."

That was his conclusion. That after Brown was shot, he was surrendering, he had his hands up.

That's what the witness told local authorities. But, then when the feds interviewed witness 14, and drilled down on the details, his assumptions became less clear.

Were Brown's hands a sign of surrender? Or was he checking his injuries? Were his palms facing the officer or facing Brown?

The witness eventually says: "He was defenseless, hands up, he was trying to stay on his feet and you could see that his knees was beginning to buckle and he was going down."

But the investigator eventually gets to a very important point. He leads the witness to say that Brown was moving toward Wilson, who was screaming "Stop," every time the officer fired his weapon:

Last updated at 7:30 a.m. Wilson testimony:

Wilson's testimony to the grand jury presents the image of an officer who was scared for his life during the confrontation with the larger man who was physically assaulting him. One excerpt:

Wilson is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 210 pounds. Brown was the same height and weighed about 290 pounds.

He said Brown and his associate Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of the street, preventing normal traffic from passing. He said he told them to move to the sidewalk, and after a brief exchange Brown used a vulgarity at him. Wilson said he called for backup and tried open the door of his police car. Brown, he said, slammed the door shut. They struggled and Brown hit him in the face twice, Wilson said.

He said he thought, "What do I do to not get beaten inside my car?"

Wilson said he had considered using mace, his baton and his flashlight before drawing his gun and telling Brown, "Get back or I'm going to shoot you." Brown then grabbed his gun, Wilson said, twisted it and dug it down into the officer's hip. The officer said he feared he would die if Brown got hold of the gun. He said he managed to raise the gun and fired twice. It just clicked. But the third time, the gun went off, startling both men.

That's when, Wilson said, Brown looked up at him "and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up."

Wilson said he tried firing again, but nothing happened. When he tried once more, it went off. Brown then hit him again, he said.

The officer said when he looked up, Brown was running away. Wilson said he got out of the car, called for backup and began chasing Brown. He said Brown then stopped and he did, too. He said he ordered Brown to get on the ground, but the 18-year-old did not. He said Brown made an "aggravated sound" and ran back toward him. He said he warned Brown repeatedly to get on the ground, but when he did not comply the officer fired "a series of shots."

"I don't know how many I shot, I just know I shot it," he said.

Wilson then proceeded to explain his rationale for why he chased Brown. He said he wanted to keep Brown "contained" until support arrived. He said he thought that if he could buy 30 seconds of time, until other officers arrived, they could "make the arrest, nothing happens, we are all good.

"And it didn't happen that way."

—NPR Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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