FERGUSON, MO – Just minutes after the prosecutor announced that no charges would be filed against the officer for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, the rioting began. Within the hour, a police car was vandalized, store windows busted, and gunshots fired outside the Ferguson courthouse in the street where a “Seasons Greetings” banner hung overhead.
Announcing the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case in primetime, at a time when darkness put peacekeepers in the streets at a disadvantage, was not the best decision.
While President Barack Obama spoke live after the announcement, a split screen showed rioters trying to overturn a police car as law enforcement officers fired tear gas, Obama said, “(Change) won’t be done by smashing car windows. That won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property.”
Rioters were also reported to be throwing bottles and rocks, looting, and setting fires, including vehicles and a Little Caesars. The destruction would have happened regardless of when the announcement was made, but a nighttime announcement gave the lawbreakers cover. Self-identified Ferguson residents said on news stations that the lawbreakers were taking advantage of the situation. Obama acknowledged that he expected bad behavior following the announcement.
“There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it’ll make for good TV,” he said. As he left the podium, a reporter asked if federal charges would be pursued, but Obama did not answer as he walked out of the room. Robert McCulloch, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, citing inconsistent, conflicting, changing and factually refutable witness accounts of the shooting, along with multiple investigations and autopsies, announced during a November 24 press conference, at 8:20 p.m. Central, that no probable cause existed to file charges. Basically, the grand jury’s decision means Wilson exercised his right to defend himself.
In addition, McCulloch said Wilson was responding to a call of a robbery when he spotted Brown, who fit the description of the suspect. When Wilson stopped his vehicle to question Brown, they fought in Wilson’s SUV and shots were fired. Brown’s blood and DNA were found in and outside of the vehicle and on Wilson’s clothes. Brown was fatally shot after they both exited the vehicle and Brown rushed Wilson, McCulloch said.
“I’m mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some,” McCulloch said.
He was right. Immediately following McCulloch’s announcement, the Brown family issued a statement stating rejecting the grand jury’s findings and calling Wilson a killer.
“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” according to the statement.
They also encouraged peaceful protests, as did McCulloch and Obama, although Obama chastised police forces for what he indicated where too white. He also implied they have inadequate community relations and are not fair to everyone.
“What is also true, is there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making those problems up,” he said. “Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion.”
Obama said the solution is for police departments to work with communities and all levels of governments to achieve what he said is “much needed criminal justice reform.”
“Those should be the lessons that we draw from these tragic events,” he said.