FERGUSON, Mo.–The white police officer who shot to death a black teen last summer and avoided criminal prosecution this week has resigned from the police force, his lawyer said Saturday evening.
The resignation comes after almost four months of largely peaceful protests interrupted at times by violent clashes with police, widespread looting and destructive arson in this St. Louis suburb.
Officer Darren Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that he was “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.”
Wilson, 28, said “for obvious reasons,” he wished to wait until a local county grand jury reached its decision not to indict him on Monday before leaving the police department. His actions on Aug. 9 sparked impassioned nationwide debates over whether Wilson had acted too aggressively in gunning down teenager Michael Brown he had detained during a routine stop that turned violent. Mr. Wilson argued in grand jury testimony he acted to protect himself while other witnesses said Mr. Brown had his arms raised before he was shot fatally.
“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,” Wilson 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.”
There is still a civil rights probe by the Justice Department into Brown’s death and into whether the city’s police department may have unfairly targeted African-Americans. In a television interview this week, Wilson maintained his innocence, saying he knows he did his job correctly.