The announcement of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown was met with chaos Monday night.
While many of the protesters were peaceful, more than 15 gunshots were heard as businesses throughout the city were looted or set ablaze.
The violence marred the wishes of Brown’s parents, who have been pleading for peace.
“This is crazy. I mean, this doesn’t do anything,” one resident told CNN.
She worried about how her city would pick up the pieces.
“They’re not going to rebuild. It’s just going to be a ghost town pretty soon.”
[Breaking news update at 11:52 p.m.]
No police have sustained any serious injuries, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. He said to his knowledge, police have not caused any serious injuries.
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Several businesses and a row of cars at a car dealership have been set ablaze in the nearby city of Dellwood. The city’s mayor said firefighters are unable to respond to one major fire because of gunshots ringing out.
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Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered more Missouri National Guard members to Ferguson. The Guard is providing security at the Ferguson Police Department, Nixon’s office said.
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An entire row of businesses are now on fire on West Florissant Avenue, a major street in Ferguson, Missouri. There are so many fires in the city that firefighters haven’t been able to reach all of them, CNN’s Sara Sidner said.
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St. Louis’ main airport has a temporary flight restriction, according to a tweet from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The restriction is for incoming flights, not outgoing, according to the airport message.
“It is affecting just a handful of remaining flights that are due in,” spokesman Jeff Lea told CNN.
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Several more businesses are being looted or set on fire in Ferguson, Missouri. Meanwhile, protesters have shut down Interstate 44. Police officers are now standing in a line across highway lanes.
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A Little Caesars pizza restaurant has been set ablaze as chaos continues to mount throughout Ferguson, Missouri.
“What is so tragic is this is exactly what the parents of Mike Brown did not want,” CNN commentator Van Jones said.
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Officer Darren Wilson told a grand jury that Michael Brown punched him in the face when he drove back to him after identifying him as a possible suspect in a shop theft, according to documents released by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.
He said he tried to get out of his cruiser, but Brown slammed the door shut twice and hit him with his fist.
“I felt that another of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse,” Wilson said. “… I’ve already taken two to the face and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.”
It appears all the names of witnesses have been redacted in the court documents.
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“Right now all hell is breaking loose,” St. Louis blogger Aaron Laxton said.
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Protests have started across the country, including in New York, Chicago and in front of the White House in Washington, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.
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A few protesters hurled items at CNN’s Stephanie Elam, and some said they did not want the media reporting on the unrest in Ferguson.
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Attorney General Eric Holder stressed that the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown continues.
“Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence,” Holder said. ” And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”
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The violence that has broken out in Ferguson following the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson is not what the Brown family wanted, family attorney Benjamin Crump told CNN. “They wish that people will not be violent” but be peaceful and constructive, he said.
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Ferguson Market & Liquor — the same store where Michael Brown had allegedly stolen cigars before his confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson in August — was being looted Monday night, CNN crews reported.
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President Barack Obama echoed the words of Michael Brown’s father, calling for the Brown’s death to lead to “incredible change, positive change” and for people not to hurt others or destroy property.
It is an “understandable reaction” that some Americans will agree and others will be made angry by the decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, Obama said Monday night.
“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said.
[Previous story, published at 7:14 p.m.]
A Missouri grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a prosecutor announced late Monday.
“The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened,” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch told reporters.
After an “exhaustive review,” the jurors deliberated for two days, he said. The grand jurors are “the only ones who have heard all the evidence,” McCulloch said.
Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Brown, a black teenager, on August 9.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Ferguson police station reacted with anger and dismay as word spread that there would be no indictment.
Some people broke down in tears, others threw their hands up and screamed. A chant arose, ” F*ck the police! ”
The crowd surged toward the metal gates in front of the station and were met by officers in full riot gear. Another chant arose: “No justice, no peace!”
Brown’s father is “devastated” that Wilson will not face charges, a spokeswoman for Michael Brown Sr. told CNN’s Evan Perez.
“While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change,” the family said in a statement. “We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.” The family made a call for police officers across the country to wear body cameras.
The statement closed: “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”
‘Not the time to turn on each other’
Earlier Monday, officials urged residents to remain calm — regardless of the grand jury announcement.
“No matter what is announced, people will be emotional. I want people to think with their heads and not with emotion,” said St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. “This is not the time to turn on each other. It is a time to turn to each other.”
As he spoke, protesters outside the police department chanted: “Indict that cop!” A line of police guarded the entrance.
Members of the National Guard were in the area to provide security at firehouses, police stations and utility substations, the governor said.
Brown’s death ignited a national debate on race and law enforcement. Nowhere was the tension more evident than in the predominantly black town of Ferguson, which has a mostly white police department and town government.
Supporters of Brown’s family back witness accounts that Wilson fired while Brown, 18, had his hands up in surrender. Wilson’s supporters say that Brown was the aggressor and had tried to take Wilson’s gun while he was in his vehicle and that the officer fired in self-defense.
The town couldn’t even agree what happened during weeks of street demonstrations. Protesters argued that authorities were trying to stifle protests; officials said they were acting to keep violence under control.
Brown’s family has asked for four and a half minutes of silence before any protests begin, family representative Janie Jones said.
“We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son. We are here for protection of all children. We are here to support justice and equality for all people. We lift our voices to ensure black and brown men, women and children can live in this country without being devalued because of the color of our skin,” the family said in an statement earlier Monday.
The time period is a reference to the approximately four and a half hours Brown’s body remained in the street after he was shot.
An investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that county detectives were 30 miles away when they were called, and the first detective arrived about 90 minutes after the shooting. When a hearse later arrived, an angry crowd had gathered and it was too dangerous to get the body, authorities said. Ultimately, a SWAT team came.
“The world will be watching us. They’re going to watch how we handle our disagreements in the coming days and how we make needed change in the coming months and years,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told reporters before the grand jury announcement.
‘We’re just ready for it to be over with’
The city has been on edge in anticipation of a decision. Law enforcement sources said the grand jury was sent home.
“We’re prepared for any decision that comes down,” Missouri Public Safety Director Daniel Isom told CNN.
More businesses boarded up, but streets were quiet in the afternoon as residents waited.
Byron Conley, protesting outside city police department, told CNN, “We’re just ready for it to be over with. Let’s get on with our lives.”
Rick Canamore stood with his sign — “RIP Mike Brown” — outside the police department.
“I’m already angry because it has taken so long,” he said. “If Mike Brown had shot Darren Wilson, it would have been over a long time ago. But Darren Wilson is walking around free. He hasn’t apologized to Mike Brown’s family. He has not apologized to the community.”
Though the basic facts of the case — that Brown was unarmed when Wilson shot him — are not in question, the facts of the fatal moment are hotly disputed. Authorities have said Wilson stopped Brown because Brown and a friend were blocking traffic, by walking down the middle of the street.
Protests in Ferguson might be hampered by winter weather, with temperatures expected to drop into the upper 20s Monday night.
The Ferguson-Florissant School District has canceled classes and activities for Tuesday as a result of the expected grand jury announcement. The district’s calendar shows the schools will be closed from Wednesday through Friday for Thanksgiving. The nearby Riverview Gardens School District similarly canceled school for Tuesday.
Unrest could flare in other cities, too, in the wake of the grand jury decision, Rashid Abdul-Salaam, a security specialist and former police officer, told CNN.
“Departments would be remiss if they didn’t prepare,” he said.
Unanimous indictment decision isn’t needed
Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a grand jury decides whether there is “probable cause” to charge someone with a crime, based on testimony and evidence presented.
In Missouri, grand jurors don’t have to be unanimous to indict, as long as nine of the 12 agree on a charge.
The grand jury could have issued an indictment on any of these four charges: First-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
It also could have added a charge of armed criminal action, authorities said.
The grand jury meets in secrecy and first met in August. While the jury members are not identified, authorities have released some information about them.
The group of 12 includes nine white people (six men and three women) and three black people (two women and one man), court officials said.
The county grand jury was randomly selected from an approved pool and has been seated since May, according to Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Many grand juries hear numerous cases. These juries last for a specified period of time rather than the duration of a specific case.
Wilson himself testified before the grand jury, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said, an unusual move because he gave up his Fifth Amendment rights in doing so.