WASHINGTON -- The White House finally responded to a petition created in November calling on President Barack Obama to pursue federal charges against former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson for the August 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
On Tuesday, the administration reiterated the Justice Department’s conclusion that there were no grounds to indict, and added that they have no say in the matter.
“The Department of Justice investigated the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, and on March 4, 2015, Attorney General Holder announced that ‘Michael Brown's death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson,’” the response reads.
The petition followed a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision to not indict Wilson in November.
“Bring justice to Michael Brown and the hundreds of other black boys killed for the color of their skin by federally charging & fully prosecuting Darren Wilson,” the petition states. “The grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson because of 'conflicting evidence,' which is why a trial is necessary to guarantee the legitimacy of our justice system. Darren Wilson must held accountable for the murder that he committed.”
Brown’s family tried to get recourse by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson in April. The case moved from a St. Louis County Circuit Court to a federal court earlier this month, and four counts have already been dismissed. U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber also said the remaining two counts could be dropped later since it may not be possible for parents to make such claims for an adult child.
Often when criminal charges are not brought against an officer for killing someone, authorities shift blame onto the victim to support the notion the officer acted legally in using lethal force. The implication is that it isn't an officer's job to stop himself from killing someone -- rather, the person was responsible for not getting killed by the officer.
This narrative emerged early in the case of Mike Brown’s death. Just two weeks after he was killed, The New York Times penned an article declaring that Brown was “no angel." There was less emphasis on what Wilson, the professional in the situation, could have done differently. This made the lack of accountability for Wilson a tougher pill to swallow.
Protesters took to the streets to show their frustration with the decision and the flawed system that allowed it. But what Leslie McSpadden, Brown’s mother, had to say hit the hardest:
Victim-blaming in the Brown case becomes even more problematic when we consider Wilson's prior conduct on a corrupt police force. In November, a video emerged of Wilson threatening and arresting Mike Arman, another Ferguson resident, for recording him. Wilson, according to The Guardian, wrote in the police report that Arman “refused to answer any questions or co-operate as he lifted the phone to begin a video recording of myself” and “stated that I must state my name to him” when pressed for further information on the vehicles.
But in the footage, Wilson can be heard responding to Arman's request of his name with, “If you wanna take a picture of me one more time, I’m gonna lock your ass up” before walking up and arresting him.
A DOJ probe into Ferguson's police department uncovered similar improper conduct, constitutional violations and other practices that “severely undermined the public trust, eroded police legitimacy, and made local residents less safe -- but created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them."
After Brown was killed, advocates also pushed lawmakers to reform abusive municipal courts throughout St. Louis County. There was clearly a marked lack of trust between the community and the Ferguson PD over accountability in the Brown case.
During a Twitter Q&A Tuesday about Obama’s agenda, The Huffington Post twice asked White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about the administration’s response to the case. She did not immediately respond to the question.
When officers don't take any responsibility in such killings, the public is left believing the officer behaved properly and the victim behaved improperly. The only way to hold officers criminally liable for their actions is the justice system, which considers the case and then closes it for good. This finality can amplify the frustrations of those still seeking justice.
And sadly, that appears to be the case with Brown’s death.
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