Darren Wilson, the former police officer who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Missouri, is unemployed and living in seclusion on the outskirts of St. Louis, he reveals in an in-depth New Yorker profile.
Wilson, who wasn’t indicted in the case, says he has struggled to find employment since the August 9, 2014 shooting, which became a flashpoint for racial tensions around the country. Wilson says he wanted to go back to work for the Ferguson police, but was told that his presence on the force might endanger other officers. He briefly worked in a boot store but quit when reporters began calling the store.
He says he hasn’t read the U.S. Justice Department’s report on the systemic racism of the police in Ferguson, a predominantly African American St. Louis suburb.
“I don’t have any desire,” Wilson told The New Yorker. “I’m not going to keep living in the past about what Ferguson did. It’s out of my control.”
He lives on a dead-end street on the outskirts of St. Louis, in a house equipped with security cameras synched to his phone. He answered the door for the visiting reporter in a hat and sunglasses. When his wife gave birth to their baby daughter in March, he says he made her check into the hospital anonymously.
He still sometimes goes out to eat, he says, but only “with like-minded individuals,” he says, adding, “Where it’s not a mixing pot.”
Wilson is being sued civilly by Brown’s parents, and for this reason declined to discuss the details of the shooting. He says he doesn’t think about what kind of person Brown was “because it doesn’t matter at this point. Do I think he had the best upbringing? No. Not at all.”
When asked if he thought Brown was a bad person or merely a kid in a bad situation, Wilson says, “I only knew him for those forty-five seconds in which he was trying to kill me, so I don’t know.”
The Justice Department report on the Ferguson police’s systemic racism, which was released alongside the report clearing Wilson of wrongdoing, contained damning statistics. Among them were the fact that black drivers were more than twice as likely than white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops despite possessing contraband 26 percent less often, and that police issued four or more tickets at a time to black people 73 times, versus two times for whites.
But Wilson disputed the notion that there was any institutional racism, saying the Justice Department’s numbers were “skewed.” “You can make those numbers fit whatever agenda you want,” he adds.
He downplayed tensions between police and the African American community, saying, “Everyone is so quick to jump on race. It’s not a race issue.”
When asked if people in African American neighborhoods use the legacy of racism as an excuse, Wilson replies, “I think so,” adding, “I am really simple in the way that I look at life. What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me.”
On the struggles of inner city African American communities, he says, “There’s a lack of jobs everywhere,” and adds, “But there’s also a lack of initiative to get a job. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
The day of the shooting, Wilson was heading for a lunch date with his wife when his police radio announced a “stealing in progress,” to which Wilson responded, setting off the sequence that led to the shooting. After the incident, Wilson showed up to the lunch, and according to his wife, Barb, announced, “I just killed somebody.”
Barb Wilson told the magazine she didn’t expect the shooting to be “a big weight on his shoulders.”
“A typical police shooting is: You get about a week to a week and a half off, you see a shrink, you go through your Internal Affairs interviews. An then you come back,” she says.
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