The white police officer who killed Michael Brown has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, his attorney said Saturday, nearly four months after the fatal confrontation with the black 18-year-old that fueled protests and unrest in the St. Louis suburb and across the nation.
Darren Wilson, 28, has been on administrative leave since the shooting on Aug. 9. His resignation was announced Saturday by one of his attorneys, Neil Bruntrager. The resignation is effective immediately, Bruntrager said.
In an interview Saturday with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wilson said resigning was “the hardest thing” he’d ever had to do, but made the decision after the police department told him it had received threats of violence if he remained on the force.
“I’m resigning of my own free will,” he said. “I’m not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me.”
A grand jury spent more than three months reviewing evidence in the case before declining in November to issue any charges against Wilson. He told jurors that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun.
The U.S. Justice Department is still conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate probe of police department practices.
The shooting struck up a national debate about race and police power.
After the shooting, Wilson spent months in hiding and made no public statements. He broke his silence after the grand jury decision, telling George Stephanopoulos that he could not have done anything differently in the encounter with Brown.
Wilson said he has a clean conscience because “I know I did my job right.” Brown’s shooting was the first time he fired his gun on the job, he said.
Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Brown had been white, Wilson said yes.
Wilson began his career in nearby Jennings before moving to the Ferguson job a few years ago. He had no previous complaints against him and a good career record, according to Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who called Wilson “an excellent police officer.”
A few months before the shooting, Wilson had received a commendation for detaining a suspect in a drug case.
Wilson told the Post-Dispatch that being a police officer “is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”
In his resignation letter he wrote, “It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal.”