St. Louis County’s top prosecutor announced Thursday that he will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and police treatment of minorities. It was nearly six years ago that a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown, a Black 18-year-old. Civil rights leaders and Brown's mother had hoped that Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, the county’s first Black prosecutor, would reopen the case after he took office last year. "My heart breaks" for Brown's parents, Bell said in a news conference, the AP reports. "I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever." Bell said that his office conducted a five-month review.
"The question for this office was a simple one. Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Micheal Brown he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law. After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did," Bell said. Still, he added, "Our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson." Wilson was never charged and tried, so double jeopardy was not an issue. The Justice Department also declined to charge Wilson but issued a scathing report citing racial bias in Ferguson’s police and courts. The August 2014 police shooting touched off months of unrest and made the St. Louis suburb synonymous with a national debate over police treatment of minorities. The unrest helped solidify the Black Lives Matter movement that began after Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in 2012. (More Michael Brown stories.)