“Hands up, don’t shoot” is now about more than the shooting that killed Michael Brown, but it’s also not an accurate representation of the incident that sparked nationwide protests, federal investigators concluded in a report released Wednesday.
The Justice Department’s investigation into Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Brown concluded that witness accounts that the African-American teenager surrendered with his hands up “do not support the prosecution of Wilson.” The Justice Department decided not to pursue federal charges against Wilson after its investigation, it officially announced Wednesday.
Instead, the physical evidence and accounts by “credible witnesses” suggest Wilson shot Brown multiple times only as “Brown was moving toward Wilson,” according to the report.
Physical and forensic evidence in fact contradict claims by witnesses who have maintained that Brown had his hands up, above his waist when Wilson shot him, the Justice Department concluded.
The results of the federal probe support claims support the detailed accounting St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch presented in a press conference announcing a grand jury’s decision to not indict Wilson.
“Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson,” the report explains.
And the witnesses whose testimony did not contradict previous statements they made or the physical and forensic evidence never “perceived Brown to be attempting to surrender at any point when Wilson fired upon him.”
“To the contrary, several of these witnesses stated that they would have felt threatened by Brown and would have responded in the same way Wilson did,” the report continued.
So what of the witnesses who claimed Brown had his hands up in a surrender position?
Several of those witnesses recanted their initial statements and confessed they did not witness the critical moment of the shootings or provided inconsistent statements. These include at least six witnesses, according to the report.
Two other witnesses – who have stood by their testimony – gave accounts to local and federal investigators that proved inconsistent with forensic evidence.
Those two witnesses’ accounts proved also inconsistent with physical evidence in recounting the initial altercation between Brown and Wilson at the officer’s SUV.
The Justice Department did not find grounds to charge Wilson, but did find evidence of systematic racial discrimination in Ferguson at the hands of the city’s police department and municipal court.