What's Happening in Ferguson? Darren Wilson Resigns, Michael Brown's Family Mulls Civil Suit


Concerned over his safety and the safety of his fellow police officers, Darren Wilson, who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in August, resigns. He will receive no severance package.

That is what Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said in a news conference. In his resignation letter, the 28-year-old officer wrote that he submitted his resignation after police chief Tom Jackson informed him that there were alleged threats to his life and that of his fellow officers in the Ferguson Police Department. He said his "continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow."

"There will be no severance or extension of benefits for Darren Wilson following his resignation," Knowles told the press.

He also outlined the city's plans to rebuild trust in a community composed largely of a black population but patrolled by a mostly white police force. Part of the city's plans, the mayor said, is to provide scholarships and recruit more black officers to build a law enforcement department that "is more reflective of the demographics of Ferguson".

"I think people will continue to express frustration and look for change," the mayor said. "But I hope people understand that the city of Ferguson has been responsive. We hope that will help bring the community of Ferguson together and I hope others will start to recognize that going forward."

Wilson's resignation comes after a grand jury composed of nine whites and three blacks voted not to indict the white officer in the shooting of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old teenager who was found to be unarmed during an encounter with the police. Protests have been going on for months, but the jury's decision not to charge Wilson with a crime have sparked fury in Ferguson, leading to violence, looting and the destruction of at least a dozen commercial buildings. Protesters also called for Jackson's resignation, but the Ferguson chief cop, who appeared with the mayor during his news conference, maintained that he will not step down from his position.

Meanwhile, Brown's family is said to be considering filing a civil lawsuit against Wilson. Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing the Brown family, said they were considering filing a wrongful death case against the officer, but that it shouldn't be taken to mean to be "confused with the fact that they really wanted the killer of their child to be held accountable".

Daryl Parks, another lawyer for the Brown family, said the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was flawed because the officer should not have been allowed to present his defense during the proceedings. He also said that the family is considering filing a civil case against the Ferguson police department, but Wilson's lawyer Neil Bruntrager said any civil litigation against his client is likely to be a futile effort.

"I think they will have a difficult row to how," Bruntrager said. "They certainly have that right to redress. I wouldn't begrudge that to anybody."

But Ferguson is not about to let the issue die down, with protests continuing to take place in the city and elsewhere in the United States. On Sunday, during the NFL St. Louis Rams against Oakland, five players raised their hands as a symbol of solidarity with Brown, who was said by some witnesses that he had his arms raised in a hands-up-don't-shoot pose when Wilson shot him to death.

"I just think there has to be a change," said Rams tight end Jared Cook. "There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world."  

The St. Louis Police Officers Association, however, have condemned the act, saying they were "profoundly disappointed" that the protesters have chosen to ignore the "mountains of evidence" released by the grand jury and found the act "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory".

After the game, around 50 protestors blocked the street outside Edward Jones Dome and later marched around nearby streets chanting "Black lives matter" before they were dispersed and taken into custody by the police, to the applause of some white men who came to watch the Rams game.

"We will continue to protest peacefully and look for ways in which we can help enact changes and improvements in our community," said a group of local activists. "We will continue to try to uplift both Ferguson and the St. Louis area in general."

Even President Barack Obama has taken steps to address the Ferguson situation, with meetings scheduled on Monday with civil rights leaders, law enforcement authorities and elected officials to discuss how to strengthen relations between "law enforcement and communities of color". The President is also meeting with his Cabinet to review federal programs currently in place that provide military-style equipment to local police departments. 

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