Ferguson Grand Jury Exonerates Police Officer in Michael Brown Shooting

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A grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, has decided against indicting a white police officer in the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, the office of the St. Louis County Prosecutor announced Monday night — a decision local and national law enforcement officials fear could spark a racial powder keg festering in the months since the incident.

The county prosecutor, Robert McCullough said during a press conference to announce the decision that no probable cause exists to indict Officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death.

"There is no question of course that Wilson caused the death of Michael Brown by shooting him, but the inquiry does not end there," McCullough said. "The law authorizes a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in certain situations. The law also allows all people to use deadly force to defend themselves in certain situations."

Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was shot Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson after an altercation near the officer's vehicle. An independent autopsy revealed that the teen died after being shot six times, including twice in the head.

Witnesses say the officer fired after the teen put his hands up and pleaded with the officer not to shoot. The officer claims he fired after Brown charged toward him.

Minutes before the shooting, Brown was allegedly involved in a shoplifting incident at a nearby convenience store, though it is unknown if Wilson was aware before encountering Brown.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks secretly met weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence. The panel convened for a total of 70 hours and heard from 60 witnesses before reaching a decision Monday.

Nine votes were required for an indictment.

"These grand jurors poured their hearts and soul into this process," McCullough said.

The shooting sparked national outrage and weeks of protests in the town, some of which turned violent as demonstrators encountered police.

A crowd that had gathered in the town Monday began protesting almost immediately after the verdict was read, confronting police in riot gear standing by a barricade, The Associated Press reported.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who was among the crowd, was inconsolable as supporters took her away, AP reported.

The FBI had deployed 100 additional agents to the St. Louis area ahead of the jury's long-awaited decision, with more available if necessary.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency last week and activated the state National Guard.

The Department of Justice, which is conducting civil and criminal investigations of the death of Brown, has not announced when its investigations will be concluded.

Wilson, 28, faces an internal investigation by the police department for his actions. CNN reported last week that he is in the final stages of negotiations with city officials to turn in his badge, according to sources close to the talks.

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