WASHINGTON D.C.: The US Justice Department said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) it will not prosecute the white policeman who shot dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, but in a damning report found the local force systematically targeted African Americans.
The fatal shooting in August in the St Louis suburb ignited nationwide outrage and shone a critical spotlight on relations between law enforcement and black Americans, with police tactics also coming in for strong criticism.
The white officer, Darren Wilson, was also cleared in November by a grand jury which opted not to indict him for the death of the 18-year-old Brown, meaning the policeman is no longer facing legal action of any kind.
“Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated [Brown’s civil rights] when he fired his weapon at Brown,” the official report said.
“For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed,” it added.
The teenager’s death—on a residential street in a black-majority town with an overwhelmingly white police force—prompted weeks of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and beyond.
Wilson told the St Louis County grand jury that he had shot Brown in self-defense on August 9 after the youth allegedly tried to get hold of his handgun.
But others contended that Brown had his hands up in the air when the officer, who has since left the Ferguson police force, fatally opened fire.
In a statement, Brown’s family called Wednesday’s decision “disappointing.”
But it added that it looked forward to seeing “true change” as a result of the Justice Department’s expose of “racial bias and profiling” among Ferguson police.
“If that change happens, our son’s death will not have been in vain,” the Browns said.
In what Attorney General Eric Holder called a “searing report” into Ferguson’s police department, the Justice Department said it found a widespread pattern of racial discrimination and multiple violations of citizens’ constitutional rights.
Police officers in the town of 21,000 regularly pulled over motorists without reasonable suspicion, carried out arrests without probable cause and used excessive force, it reported.
While African Americans make up two-thirds of Ferguson’s overall population, they accounted for 93 percent of arrests in 2012 through 2014.
African Americans also accounted for 85 percent of people stopped by Ferguson police, 90 percent of citations issued and 88 percent of instances in which force was used.
Ferguson’s local judicial system also came under a harsh light, with the report finding that African Americans were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge.