If St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch is really interested in indicting police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, it appears the prosecutor now has all the evidence he needs.
The grand jury has heard the testimony of two white construction workers who witnessed the shooting, but there is also video footage that powerfully backs up their account of Wilson shooting Brown while his hands were up in surrender. Combined with the eyewitness accounts of Ferguson residents who live on the street where the shooting occurred in the middle of the afternoon, there seems to be a clear account of what Wilson did and what Brown did in response.
Since experts say a prosecutor holds a huge amount of sway over a grand jury and can usually get an indictment if he wants one, the main question now is whether McCulloch—whose own father was a police officer slain in the line of duty when McCulloch was 12 years old—really wants one. Does he want to endanger his relationship with the police officers on whom he relies heavily to arrest suspects, conduct investigations, and gather evidence for the cases he must prosecute?
While there has been significant attention paid to the lack of racial diversity in smaller police forces like Ferguson’s—a New York Times study found that there are at least 400 towns across America where a predominantly white police force is patrolling an overwhelmingly Black town—there also is a severe lack of diversity among prosecutors’ offices. A study conducted in California found that while 60 percent of defendants were nonwhite, 80 percent of prosecutors and judges were white.
The numbers likely aren’t much different outside of California.
So when the decisions are made about whether to indict Black men on criminal charges or what charges to seek—or whether to indict a white cop for killing a Black man—there are usually very few African Americans in the room.
A video acquired by CNN captured the reactions of the two white construction workers right after Wilson shot the teen.
“He had his f**n hands up,” one of the men says in the video, while raising his hands to demonstrate.
In an interview with CNN, the white construction worker said he heard one gunshot, then another shot about 30 seconds later.
“The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” the witness said.
The witness said he saw Brown’s “brains come out of his head,” again stating, “his hands were up.”
The other contractor told CNN he saw Brown running away from a police car.
Brown “put his hands up,” the construction worker said, and “the officer was chasing him.”
According to the witness, he saw Wilson fire a shot at Brown while his back was turned.
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Brown’s family, told the Guardian the video was “of paramount significance.”
“Not because they were not residents of Ferguson, and not because the construction workers were caucasian, but because it is a contemporaneous recording of their immediate actions of what they had just witnessed,” Crump said. “It’s the best evidence you can have other than a video of the actual shooting itself.”