An American grand jury ruling has resulted in new violence in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. The jurors decided not to charge a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African American teenager last August. The decision was announced late Monday -- more than three months after the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. His death led to weeks of angry demonstrations and riots in Ferguson.
The grand jury had 12 members -- all private citizens. Their job was to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against police officer Darren Wilson. The grand jury decided there was not probable cause to charge him in the death of Michael Brown.
Bob McCulloch is a lawyer for the Saint Louis County government.
“They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against officer Wilson and returned a no true bill on each of the five indictments.”
Mr. McCulloch said the police officer claimed he was hit by Michael Brown, and that they struggled. He said witnesses told the grand jury that the teenager took aggressive action against the officer.
“He (Michael Brown) came at him at a full charge, and that as Officer Wilson fired shots at him, Mr. Brown stopped and Officer Wilson stopped shooting. And as Mr. Brown started charging at him again, those were his words, his testimony, Mr. Wilson started shooting again.”
After the grand jury decision was announced, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House. He called for calm and appealed to police to show care and restraint in controlling peaceful protest.
“I join Michael’s parents in asking that anyone who protests this decision do so peacefully.”
But the reaction was anything but peaceful back in Missouri. A crowd gathered near the headquarters of the Ferguson Police Department. Police officers used smoke and tear gas to break up the demonstration. Some protesters reacted by setting fire to police cars and throwing objects at officers.
Saint Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the protesters set fire to more than 10 buildings, and that most were destroyed.
“Those are businesses that may never come back. So, frankly, I’m heartbroken about that. Now the good news is, we have not fired a shot. As far as I know, we don’t have any serious injuries to police officers. They (got) banged up a little bit with rocks. One lieutenant from the patrol got hit in the head with a glass bottle. But we don’t have any serious injuries, and as far as I know, we haven’t caused any serious injuries tonight.”
The police chief said officers arrested nearly 30 people during the unrest.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government continues to investigate the shooting. He said federal investigations are exploring whether the Ferguson Police Department is involved in unconstitutional activities.
Mr. Holder called the death of Michael Brown a “tragedy.” In his words, “far more must be done to create enduring trust” between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
*This report was based on stories from VOA’s News Division. George Grow wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Jeri Watson was the editor.
Words in this Story
jury – n. a group of people chosen to decide what is true in a trial
charge – v. to accuse someone of something, usually a crime; n., a statement in which someone is accused of something
riots – n. violent action by a large group of people
witnesses – n. people who saw and can tell about an action or event, sometimes in a court of law
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