The decision by the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks was announced Monday night by the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Mr. McCulloch said Officer Wilson had faced charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
Word of the decision set off a new wave of anger among hundreds who gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department. Police officers in riot gear stood in a line as demonstrators chanted and threw signs and other objects toward them as the news spread. “The system failed us again,” one woman said. In downtown Ferguson, the sound of breaking glass could be heard as crowds ran through the streets.
As the night went on, the situation grew more intense and chaotic in several locations around the region. Bottles and rocks were thrown at police, and windows of businesses were smashed. Several police cars were burned; buildings, including a Walgreens, a meat market and a storage facility, were on fire, and looting was reported in several businesses. Gunshots could be heard along the streets of Ferguson, and law enforcement authorities deployed smoke and gas to control the crowds. In St. Louis, protesters swarmed Interstate 44 and blocked all traffic near the neighborhood where another man was shot by police this fall.
Before midnight, St. Louis County police officers reported heavy automatic gunfire in the area where some of the largest protests were taking place. Flights to St. Louis Lambert International Airport were not permitted to land late Monday as a safety precaution, officials said.
Mayor James Knowles III of Ferguson, reached on his cellphone late Monday, said he was there and wanted to see National Guard troops, some of whom were stationed at a police command center, move to protect his city. “They’re here in the area,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re not deploying.”
Just after 1 a.m., Gov. Jay Nixon called up additional members of the National Guard to Ferguson, where they will provide security for the police headquarters.
Mr. Brown’s family issued a statement expressing sadness, but calling for peaceful protest and a campaign to require body cameras on police officers nationwide. “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the statement said. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
But outside the police station, Lesley McSpadden, Mr. Brown’s mother, voiced frustration with the decision. “They wrong!” she yelled, pointing toward the police officers standing outside of the station. “Y’all know y’all wrong!”
At the White House, President Obama appealed for peaceful protest and “care and restraint” from law enforcement after the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson, even as he said the situation speaks to broader racial challenges in America.
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades,” Mr. Obama said in the briefing room, where he made an unusual late-night appearance to respond to the decision. “But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”
Protests, often well organized and orderly, also occurred in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia and Chicago, where about 200 mostly young and mostly white protesters gathered at police headquarters, despite frigid temperatures and light snow.
In a lengthy news conference, Mr. McCulloch described the series of events, step by step, that had led to the shooting, and the enormous array of evidence and witnesses brought before the grand jury. He described an altercation inside Officer Wilson’s vehicle, after which Officer Wilson had Mr. Brown’s blood on his weapon, shirt and pants, the prosecutor said, as well as swelling and redness on his face.
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Graphic: Q. and A.: What Happened in Ferguson?
“Physical evidence does not look away as events unfold,” he said.
Mr. McCulloch also pointed to inconsistent and changing statements from witnesses, including observations about the position of Mr. Brown’s hands. Some witnesses have said he had his hands up as the final shots were fired. The prosecutor, who had faced widespread calls to recuse himself after opponents cited what they called flawed investigations, took the unusual step of directing his staff to present “absolutely everything” — rather than a witness or two — to the grand jury.
Even before the decision was announced, National Guard troops were dispatched to a police command post; political leaders, including Governor Nixon, flew in to hold last-minute meetings with community members; schools closed for the week; and businesses and residents, including parents of schoolchildren, braced for what might come next.
Mr. Nixon, who had declared a state of emergency and called up the Missouri National Guard last week, called for peace and calm in a news conference several hours before the decision was announced. “Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint,” he said.
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Watching this for quite a while, and it's getting pathetic.I don't care about the circumstances in Ferguson, i just look at the statistics...
The ONLY reason there was no indictment against Officer Wilson is because the prosecutor DID NOT WANT to indict him. The reality (whether...
1 hour ago
One question I didn't hear journalists ask (amongst the many disappointing, preplanned and now out of context with reality ones) was what is...
Yet many here questioned why the authorities would announce the decision in the evening, rather than waiting for daylight hours. Furious, sometimes violent, demonstrations and tense clashes with the police took place late into the night for several weeks in August, and some law enforcement officers had urged a daytime announcement. Over a period of weeks, many leaders here had suggested that a Sunday morning announcement would be best, but the grand jury, which had been meeting on the case since Aug. 20, finished its work on Monday. Asked about the timing, Mr. Nixon said it had been the choice of Mr. McCulloch.