A new Department of Justice report on the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last year confirms that Brown did not surrender with his hands up as he approached police officer Darren Wilson.
In the aftermath of Brown’s death in August, some witnesses claimed that Wilson shot and killed Brown despite the latter’s attempt to turn himself in by putting his hands above his head. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” went on to become a rallying cry for activists who viewed the incident as an example of widespread use of racial profiling and excessive force by police.
The DOJ report, which clears Wilson of any civil-rights violations, finds that there is not enough evidence to back up those witnesses’ claims, or to suggest that Wilson wasn’t concerned for his safety. “There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report said, according to the New York Times.
The report also concludes that the available evidence — including various contradictions that emerged in some witnesses’ testimony during follow-up questioning – suggests that Brown did not try to surrender to Wilson. From the Times:
“Some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witnesses’ own prior statements with no explanation,” the report said.
“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,” it added.
“Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts.”
The report does find that the Ferguson Police Department exhibited a systemic racial bias in its policing efforts, with its officers singling out and targeting black residents for various violations, and exchanging multiple racist jokes in emails.