A grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, chose not to indict officer Darren Wilson on Monday in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Since the Aug. 9 shooting, Wilson has avoided public interaction amid one of the most polarizing, racially charged investigations in recent U.S. history.
He faced indictments on possible charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.
"Eyewitness accounts must always be challenged against the physical evidence," said Robert P. McCulloch, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney. He detailed at length the evidence that the grand jury examined. "There was a full investigation of all evidence."
"The duty of the jury is to separate fact from fiction," McCulloch. After an exhaustive review, the jurors found no evidence to return an indictment against officer Wilson, the prosecutor said.
Wilson, 28, stopped Brown and a friend for jaywalking on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, prompting a physical confrontation. Accounts differ on what happened next. Wilson told investigators the unarmed 18-year-old tried to grab his firearm while witnesses asserted Brown was attempting to surrender. Brown was shot six times and died at the scene, prompting months of tense, often violent protests.
The Ferguson grand jury was asked to determine if there was probable cause to suggest Wilson had committed a crime or if the police officer was acting in self-defense. Here's a closer look at seven things to know about Wilson, including details on his personal life and his actions before, during and after the fatal Brown shooting.
1. He hasn’t been seen in public since Aug. 9: Wilson has effectively evaded public recognition since Brown was killed, having fled his house in Crestwood, Missouri, before his name was released. He got “spooked and took off pretty quickly before the name was announced,” a neighbor told the Washington Post. Wilson is on paid leave from the Ferguson Police Department and may be living under police protection. He has yet to grant a public interview.
2. He said he feared for his life during Michael Brown encounter: Wilson told federal civil rights investigators he was “in fear for his life” before firing the six shots that killed Brown. The Ferguson officer maintained Brown punched him and tried to grab his gun during a struggle through a police cruiser’s driver-side window, the New York Times reported. Wilson fired twice inside the car, then four more times when the confrontation continued outside the car. Some witnesses said Wilson fired after Brown charged him while others said Brown was attempting to surrender.
3. He may quit the Ferguson police force: Wilson is the “final stages” of negotiating his departure from the Ferguson Police Department, CNN reported last week. The 28-year-old remains adamant about his innocence, but was willing to resign to ease tensions in Ferguson. However, Wilson reportedly wished to delay the move until after the Ferguson grand jury’s announcement on a potential indictment.
Earlier this month, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said it would be “difficult” for Wilson to return to work even if the grand jury absolved him of blame in Brown’s death. “I think it would be difficult for him. I think he would find it difficult. Ultimately those are conversations we will have once we find out the true facts, the complete facts in the case,” Knowles told KTVI, St. Louis.
4. He had no previous disciplinary actions on his record: In his time as a Ferguson police officer, Wilson was never reprimanded or disciplined for unseemly behavior. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson described him as “a distinguished officer,” USA Today reported.
5. He just got married: Wilson married his girlfriend, fellow Ferguson police officer Barbara Spradling, 36, Oct. 24. A municipal judge in Overland, Missouri, presided over the ceremony, described as “informal” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The couple shares a home in Crestwood, Missouri, but they haven’t been spotted there since Brown’s shooting Aug. 9. Previously, Wilson was married to Ashley Brown in 2011, but a divorce was finalized in November 2013.
6. He once arrested a man for recording him: In October 2013, Wilson arrested Mike Arman, 30, of Ferguson for failing to comply with orders. Wilson arrived at the scene to issue Arman a summons for illegally maintained vehicles, but arrested him after he refused to stop recording Wilson's actions, The Guardian reported. “If you wanna take a picture of me one more time, I’m gonna lock your a-- up,” Wilson said.
Earlier this month, a video of the encounter was posted to YouTube. “I don’t think that is [Wilson],” a Ferguson police spokesperson said of the video. Ultimately, the case was dismissed, Arman said.
7. He may have secretly met with top TV anchors: Several top news personalities, including Matt Lauer of NBC News and George Stephanopolous of ABC News, met with Wilson in “secret locations” ahead of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision on his fate, CNN reported. The anchors are believed to be in competition for Wilson’s first public interview since the Brown shooting.