SHAFAQNA —City officials said Sunday the police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager this summer and resigned from the force Saturday wouldn’t get severance. The August shooting sparked demonstrations around the U.S. as well as protests and riots in this St. Louis suburb, fueling a national debate over race and police tactics.
Officer Darren Wilson ’s resignation came late Saturday, five days after violent clashes with police, widespread looting and arson in Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown lived. The violence erupted after a grand jury declined to indict Mr. Wilson on Monday. After dozens of arrests following damage to more than a dozen businesses along Ferguson’s retail strips, protests have been relatively calm in recent days, with only two charged Saturday night and early Sunday morning, police said.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Wilson wrote, “I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow.” His attorney said in a television interview Sunday that Mr. Wilson left the department after he was told Saturday that there was a threat against the members of his police department if he stayed in his job.
In a news conference Sunday morning, Ferguson officials said there wasn’t any severance agreement with Mr. Wilson and that the city hadn’t asked the officer to resign. “We have now severed ties with Officer Darren Wilson,” Mayor James Knowles said.
Mayor Knowles also said the city was undertaking efforts to recruit more minority officers and to offer officers greater financial incentives to live in Ferguson, a blue-collar suburb where there has been months of tensions between the city’s black majority population of 21,000 and its majority-white police force.
Mr. Wilson, 28 years old, said that “for obvious reasons,” he wished to wait until the local county grand jury reached its decision before leaving the police department. His actions Aug. 9 sparked nationwide debate over whether Mr. Wilson, who is white, had acted too aggressively against Mr. Brown, who was black. The officer said he and the teen struggled during a routine stop that turned violent. In grand jury testimony, Mr. Wilson said he acted to protect himself from Mr. Brown, who he said attacked him and tried to take his gun.
“He believed that Mr. Brown intended to kill him,” Mr. Wilson’s attorney Neil Bruntrager said Sunday on Fox.
Other witnesses said Mr. Brown had his arms raised before he was fatally shot. The officer had “other reasonable means” to stop Mr. Brown besides using lethal force, Daryl Parks, a Brown family attorney, said in a Fox interview Sunday.
Mr. Brown’s death became a national flash point on race, justice and policing, and the region faced weeks of protests that turned violent at times.
“Men and women of faith need to stand at this hour” and continue to protest, to push for federal charges against the officer and other systemic changes involving police accountability, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton told a packed St. Louis church Sunday morning. “I believe justice will come.”
The preacher and television host added that the protest wasn’t “about Darren Wilson’s job. It was about Michael Brown’s justice.”
Mr. Wilson’s departure received a ho-hum review from several residents interviewed Sunday. They had stopped by under a white tent for a largely African-American church that lost its church to arson during Monday’s fiery unrest. “He didn’t get indicted so I’m not sure it’s going to make a difference,” said Hughie Naylor, a 38-year-old unemployed resident of the nearby suburb of Country Club Hills. Mr. Naylor nonetheless said he though it was unlikely that Ferguson would see riots again because the shock of the grand jury decision was wearing off.
Mr. Wilson said in his letter he hoped that his departure would help calm his community. “It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community is of paramount importance to me,” he wrote. “It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal. I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process.”
The Justice Department has said it continues to look into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Brown’s death and the practices of the city’s police department. In a recent television interview, Mr. Wilson maintained his innocence, saying he knows he did his job correctly.
Fury over the lack of an indictment against Mr. Wilson boiled over Monday night, as protesters set police cruisers on fire, smashed windows and looted stores, while police responded by firing nonlethal munitions and tear gas at the crowds. By morning, more than 20 businesses were burned and more than 60 people arrested.
Many of the buildings now sit as charred shells along one of Ferguson’s main commercial strips—still closed to traffic at night because of security concerns.
It was unclear Sunday whether Mr. Wilson’s resignation would help to end the mostly peaceful recent protests that have closed some local roads and shopping centers during one of the busiest holiday weekends.
In a news release, the Portland, Ore., police said they arrested 10 individuals, generally for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer, during a Ferguson-related protest in downtown Portland Saturday night.
Also on Saturday night, two men were arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., after getting into a physical fight with protesters, the police said in a written statement. A third arrest was of a male protester who threw a rock through the window of an art gallery, damaging a statue and causing an estimated $6,000 in damage, the Scottsdale police said.