Politics & Policy

Darren Wilson’s Words

Officer Darren Wilson on the day of the altercation with Michael Brown (Ferguson Police)
“I’ve already taken two to the face, and . . . the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.”

Until Monday night, Darren Wilson’s account of his fatal August encounter with Michael Brown had remained largely under wraps. But following the St. Louis grand jury’s announcement that it would not charge the Ferguson police officer in Brown’s death, officials released the transcript of Wilson’s grand-jury testimony. The 88-page report includes the following claims:

1. The area in which the shooting took place was known for pervasive “antipolice” sentiment.

“It is an antipolice area for sure,” Wilson told the grand jury. “There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area. There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity. It is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police.”

Asked if he was on “high alert” patrolling the area on his own, Wilson responded, “Yes, that’s not an area where you can take anything really lightly. Like I said, it is a hostile environment. There are good people over there, there really are, but, I mean, there is an influx of gang activity in that area.”

Wilson regularly worked in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and testified that he had never had a problem before his August run-in with Brown.

2. Wilson had never fired his weapon on patrol before.

“I’ve used my asp before,” Wilson noted, “I have used my flashlight before, and I have used OC spray [pepper spray] before.” But he testified that he had never used his gun, and that in those other incidents no one was injured.

3. Brown responded aggressively to Wilson’s request that he and companion Dorian Johnson walk on the sidewalk.

Wilson encountered Johnson and Brown walking in the middle of a Ferguson street, causing a traffic disruption. Wilson first asked the pair, “Why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk?” to which Johnson replied that they were “almost to our destination.” When Wilson asked a second time, Brown replied, “F— what you have to say.” “It was a very unusual and not expected response from a simple request,” Wilson told the grand jury.

4. Wilson considered other options before unholstering his weapon.

“Next thing I remember,” Wilson told the grand jury, describing his hand-to-hand struggle with Brown, who, Wilson says, assaulted him through the police cruiser’s window, “is [thinking] how do I get this guy away from me[?] . . . I considered using my mace, however, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my left hand, which is blocking my face to go for it. . . . His hands were in front of his face, it would have blocked the mace from hitting him in the face and if any of that got on me, I know what it does to me, and I would have been out of the game. I wear contacts, if that touches part of my eyes, then I can’t see at all.”

“I considered my asp,” Wilson said next, “but to get that out, since I kind of sit on it, I usually have to lean forward and pull myself forward to the steering wheel to get it out. Again, I wasn’t willing to let go of the one defense I had against being hit.”

“If I did even get it out,” Wilson added, “I’m not going to be able to expand it inside the car, or am I going to be able to make a swing that will be effective in any manner.” For similar reasons, Wilson also ruled out using his flashlight. “So the only other option I thought I had was my gun.”

5. Wilson believed Brown posed a mortal danger.

“It was your opinion that you needed to pull out your weapon because — why did you feel that way?” Wilson was asked. He replied, “I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean, it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face, and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.”

6. Brown tried to wrest Wilson’s weapon from his hand.

“I said, ‘Get back, or I’m going to shoot you,’” Wilson told the grand jury, describing the moment he pulled his gun. Brown “immediately grabs my gun and says, ‘You are too much of a p****y to shoot me.’”

Describing the struggle for the weapon, Wilson said, “I can feel [Brown’s] fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger.”

7. Wilson called multiple times for Brown to surrender.

With Wilson chasing him down the street, Brown suddenly stopped. “He starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. . . . As he is coming towards me, I tell, keep telling him to get on the ground, he doesn’t. I shoot a series of shots.”

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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