Ferguson policeman resigned on safety fears

2014-11-30 21:08
(Scott Olson, AFP)

(Scott Olson, AFP)

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Ferguson - The white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager to death this summer in a St Louis suburb decided to resign from the force because of threats against fellow officers after a grand jury decided not to indict him, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Darren Wilson's resignation, announced on Saturday, came nearly four months after the officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on 9 August. 

Wilson, who said he was acting in self-defence, had been on administrative leave and in seclusion.

The incident has galvanised critics of the way police and the US criminal justice system treat African-Americans and other minority groups, and led to months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and major cities around the country.

Wilson's attorney Neil Bruntrager said Ferguson's police chief had told Wilson on Saturday that he had information suggesting other members of the department would be harmed if Wilson stayed on the force.

"When Darren was told that, he simply said, 'That's enough,' and it was time to resign," Bruntrager said.

In a letter published by the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Wilson said he had wanted to wait until after the grand jury's decision before deciding whether to quit.

Even so, his departure was long anticipated because of the potential risks to his own safety and because of the deep rifts that have surfaced between the Ferguson police department and the African-American community since the Brown shooting.

Some critics are now calling for Tom Jackson, Ferguson's police chief, to resign as well, to facilitate the healing process in the St Louis suburb, where a majority of residents are black and most members of the police force are white.

"I think it's impossible for this community to move forward with him still in that role," said St Louis Alderman Antonio French on ABC's This Week.

Jackson and the Ferguson police department could not be reached immediately for comment.

With Wilson leaving the force and no indictment brought, the focus may now shift to a US justice department investigation of the shooting.

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