CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) — Darren Wilson, the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in August 2014, will not be charged with any crimes.
St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell made the announcement Thursday afternoon, officially ending the six-year legal saga. Bell said the lack of charges did not exonerate Wilson, but that the five-month investigation did not find anything that could be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“I think we try our best to move on,” Bell said in a press conference. “I don’t know how a family will ever heal fully. I don’t know how this region is ever going to heal fully from this case, and I know the significance of it, but I think it’s time to try to move on.”
Brown’s father met with Bell before the press conference about the investigation’s findings.
“Mike Brown Sr. did not leave this meeting happy and anything short of justice in this case, that being Darren Wilson being held criminally responsible, would certainly be disappointing,” Anthony Gray, the Brown family attorney, said in a statement.
Brown’s death sparked months of often violent protests in the streets of Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb. The incident brought the issues of systemic racism and excessive police force into the national conversation.
The protests also produced the now popular, “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant heard in protests that continue throughout the nation after other high-profile police shootings, the most recent being the George Floyd death in Minneapolis in May.
Bell’s announcement was made 10 days prior to the six-year anniversary of Brown’s death. Wilson claimed that he was acting in self-defense after Brown, who was unarmed and 19 years old, charged at him. Video from a nearby convenience store showed Brown allegedly stealing a box of Swisher Sweets before the encounter.
Former St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough declined to press charges against Wilson after a grand jury failed to indict him in November 2014.
A federal investigation also failed to turn up any charges against Wilson.
Bell, an activist, ran on a platform of systemic overhaul of the county’s criminal justice system. Immediately after his upset of McCullough in the August 2018 election, he was asked to reopen the investigation into the shooting.
Several in attendance at the press conference shouted their displeasure at Bell. One man screamed that it would be “his last term” before being removed by security.
“What I would hope is that people who are watching this, understand that we put the time in, we did a thorough and detailed investigation, and we sat down with the family, looked them in the eyes, and gave them the findings,” Bell said. “And I think at this point that is all we can do.”
Bell said the investigation took place without any announcement because he did not want undue outside influence. He said they went through thousands of pages of documents in the case before reaching the conclusion.
Brown’s death prompted a federal investigation into Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices. That finding prompted an overhaul of the city’s justice system.