(AA) – The Justice Department said Wednesday it will not pursue charges against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown last August.
The findings follow an independent six-month federal investigation into the fatal incident that ignited mass protests in the St. Louis suburb, and an initially disproportionate police crackdown.
The Justice Department’s inquiry found that evidence surrounding Brown’s killing was not sufficient to support federal civil rights charges against Wilson. The department combed crime scene evidence, medical reports, an independent autopsy, Internet postings, Wilson’s personal records, and transcripts of grand jury proceedings.
A St. Louis County grand jury previously declined to indict Wilson in November 2014.
Federal investigators also interviewed eyewitnesses to the confrontation between Wilson and Brown, 18, and the FBI canvassed more than 300 residences in an effort to interview additional witnesses.
“After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute,” the department said in a statement.
Brown’s family was notified earlier Wednesday of the findings.
“Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of officer Wilson,” outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters.
Rhetorically questioning why Brown’s death triggered widespread discontent in Ferguson, Holder pointed to a second “searing” Justice Department report issued Wednesday that documented sweeping rights abuses in the Ferguson police, judicial and penal systems that found systemic racial discrimination against blacks throughout.
“This investigation found a community that was deeply polarized,” Holder said. “Amid a highly toxic environment defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it’s not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.”
In a city where blacks make up just over two-thirds of the population, they accounted for 93 percent of arrests from 2012 to 2014; 85 percent of vehicle stops and 90 percent of citations, according to the inquiry.
Blacks were also more likely to receive multiple citations during a single incident — a situation Holder said was linked to the city’s revenue raising efforts.
“The city relies on the police force to serve essentially as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than as a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining and promoting public safety,” Holder said.
In the two-year span evaluated by the Justice Department, Ferguson’s police department issued at least four citations to blacks stemming from a single incident on 73 occasions, but issued only four or more citations to non-blacks twice.
“It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale, and structural corrective action,” Holder said.