In the middle of the heated mood, in which the racism problem is again in the spotlight in the United States, a judgment comes from St. Louis that could pour a lot of oil into the fire again.
It was announced on Thursday that former police officer Darren Wilson, who shot teenage boy Michael Brown, will not be charged. In August 2014, the 18-year-old black man had been hit six times by the then 28-year-old Wilson. The unarmed Brown had been walking on the street with a friend when Wilson stopped in his police car and stopped them. Brown was searched as a suspect in a shoplifting, but it is unclear whether this fact played a role in the subsequent confrontation. There was a scramble through the window of the police car, the teenagers fled, Wilson chased and fired a total of twelve times.
Wilson’s lawyer pleaded for self-defense. After the subsequent protests, Ferguson, Missouri, became a synonym for structural racism in the police and in the US judicial system. At that time, a grand jury had decided not to indict the police officer. The death of Michael Brown, similar to the recent murder of George Floyd, had triggered nationwide protests and had given the “Black Lives Matter” movement an enormous influx.
Hope in reforms disappointed
In January 2019, Wesley Bell became the first black man to take over the relevant public prosecutor’s office, so there was hope that he could start the proceedings again in this position. After five months of renewed witness interviews, evidence checks and investigations of the forensic report, the result, which was surprising for many observers, has now been announced. The prosecutor’s press statement said, “The bottom line was a simple question: could we prove without a doubt that Darren Wilson committed murder or manslaughter when he shot Michael Brown under Missouri law.” After the detailed examination, that was not the case.
However, Bell also made it very clear: “Our investigation in no way relieves Darren Wilson.” Of course, his lawyer sees it differently. Jim Towey said out loud New York Post: “We all came to the same conclusion: there was no crime.” He now hoped that everyone involved, especially the Browns family, could be shot down. At a press conference, Prosecutor Bell said: “The thought of his parents breaks my heart. I know this is not the result they were hoping for and their pain will last forever. ”
Fatal message at the wrong time
The result of the prosecutor Bell’s investigation should once again exacerbate the impression that police officers in the United States are too often unpunished. In the middle of the anti-racism demonstrations that have been moving the country for weeks, this is a fatal news. The parties involved are obviously aware of this scope. Bell added to his statement: “This is a time when we should reflect on Michael’s life, support his family, and recognize the transformative movement that will forever be associated with his name.”
The months of protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death, along with the murder of Trayvon Martin two years earlier, had given great support to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. An accusation by the movement is that police officers who are racist or who break the law often get away with it. Darren Wilson’s example seems to painfully confirm this once again. Wilson left the police force immediately after the grand jury decided not to indict him. After all, the Justice Department released a devastating report of the racist practices uncovered as part of the Ferguson Police investigation. As a result, Bell fired three of his previous deputy prosecutors when he took office. In addition, the public, who received the case from the protests, initiated numerous police reforms, including the wearing of body cams for civil servants.
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Brown’s mother had high hopes for Bell’s appointment. In 2018, she asked the state governor, Mike Parson, to resume the investigation. She justified this by saying that Bell’s election was “a clear mandate for St. Louis residents to reform the judicial system.” This hope seems to have been disappointed at first. The impact of the decision on the still smoldering protests, which the Trump administration recently fought with paramilitary units made up of federal police officers, is not yet clear.
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