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Report: Darren Wilson won't face federal charges for Michael Brown shooting

Former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.
Former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.
St. Louis County
  1. The Obama administration won't file charges against former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, anonymous law enforcement officials told the New York Times.
  2. The Justice Department is investigating whether Wilson willfully violated Michael Brown's civil rights when he shot the unarmed black 18-year-old in August.
  3. A grand jury previously decided not to press charges against Wilson in an investigation separate from the the federal one.
  4. A broader federal investigation into civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department is still ongoing, according to the Times.

Civil rights violations are really difficult to prove in court

The federal investigation always looked unlikely to result in charges, particularly compared to local officials' investigation into the Brown shooting.

The local investigation, carried out through a grand jury, looked at whether Wilson committed a crime such as murder or manslaughter by shooting Brown.

But the federal investigation is looking into whether Wilson willfully violated Brown's civil rights by shooting him — a much higher legal bar to climb, since the intent would be very difficult to prove. Prosecutors would have to show, the New York Times explained, that Wilson knew it was wrong to fire but did so anyway.

Officials previously told the Times and Washington Post they didn't have the evidence to charge Wilson for civil rights violations. The Justice Department expects to release a report explaining its decision once the investigation closes, according to the Times.

Further reading: Grand juries usually don't indict police officers. Should they be changed?