More than three months after the August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in a Ferguson, Missouri, a grand jury has decided to not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.
In the days leading up to the decision on Monday (November 24), leaks from the grand jury’s official inquiry suggested that there wasn’t enough evidence for Wilson to be arrested, which prompted Missouri governor Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency.
The National Guard was activated as a preemptive measure, to deal with any unrest that might follow the ruling.
“In the days immediately following Michael Brown’s death, peaceful protests were marred by senseless acts of violence and destruction,” Nixon said earlier this month. “That ugliness was not representative of Missouri, and it cannot be repeated.”
According to autopsy reports, the unarmed Brown, who was black, was shot at least six times by officer Darren Wilson, who is white, while walking to his grandmother’s house in August.
The autopsy from the St. Louis County Coroner concluded that Brown was shot in the hand at close range at least once, while an autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael Baden, requested by Brown’s family, showed that the final bullet struck him in the head.
Brown's death immediately sparked protests and temporary rioting, the height of which culminated with the looting and burning of a local QuikTrip gas station in August. This caught the attention of national media, and from that point on, photos and videos from protestors and bystanders flooded social media, making Michael Brown and the town of Ferguson trending topics.
During the protests, “hands up, don’t shoot” became one of the most pervasive chants, echoing eyewitnesses that claimed to see Brown retreating with his hands raised in the air when he was killed.
Officer Wilson, however, reportedly maintained that he was justified in shooting Brown, claiming the teen posed a threat to his safety.
Public outcry was further fueled by jarring images from the scene in Ferguson, which showed protestors in various states of standoff with a heavily militarized police force that was criticized for using excessive force, including tear gas.
When Brown was finally laid to rest in late August, his parents Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, asked that protestors pause briefly for a “moment of silence” for their son. Thousands of people paid their respects at the funeral, including included the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, Martin Luther King III and the families of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin.
After the funeral, protests were under way again. And in addition to an FBI civil rights investigation into the shooting, the U.S. Justice Department also launched a broader civil rights investigation in the Ferguson police department, after cries that the incident was racially motivated.
More than a month after Brown’s death, on September 25, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson issued a formal apology to his family but it did little to quell the outrage.
“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”
In November, Missouri governor Jay Nixon appointed a 16-member panel of experts, whose goal it is to explore the underlying economic and social problems that are contributing to the city’s racial issues.
Celebrities have been very vocal in their support for Brown’s family and the residents of Ferguson. In August, J. Cole visited the site of Brown’s death, as did Nelly and Talib Kweli. Rappers including the Game, Diddy, Wale, 2 Chainz and Rick Ross also banded together to release the tribute song, “Don’t Shoot,” in late August.