After months of enduring trial by media while remaining silent, embattled Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson finally got to tell in his own words Tuesday night how an unarmed 18-year-old black man charged at him and then tried to take his weapon and kill him.
It was only because he feared for his life that he fired his police-issued handgun and killed Michael Brown, the officer told a national TV audience.
“The reason I have a clean conscience: I know I did my job right,” Officer Wilson said in his first interview after a grand jury cleared him of all state criminal wrongdoing.
“He had tried to grab my gun, and he had charged me; he was going to try to kill me,” Officer Wilson told ABC News in a broadcast that aired Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after the grand jury’s announcement touched off a firestorm of new violence in Ferguson.
Officer Wilson, 28, systematically sought to dispel the narrative that portrayed him for weeks as a ruthless killer who shot an unarmed man who had surrendered and had his arms raised, an account the grand jury said the physical evidence would later disprove.
“That would be incorrect,” Officer Wilson said when asked whether Mr. Brown had surrendered before he was shot. “No way.”
Officer Wilson maintained that Brown charged him in a threatening manner.
“His right hand immediately went into his waistband,” the officer said. “My initial thought was ‘Is there a weapon in there?’”
Some have criticized Officer Wilson’s decision to get out of his car and pursue Brown after he ran away, but the policeman said it was his duty to pursue a potentially dangerous suspect.
“My job isn’t to just sit and wait; I have to see where this guy goes,” he said.
He said he regrets that the Brown family lost their son, and added that he hopes both he and his new wife — also a Ferguson police officer — can have a “normal life.”
Officer Wilson’s account was new to the nation, but for months a grand jury of 12 fellow citizens in Missouri heard in excruciating detail every second of his account, comparing it to the physical evidence and witness testimonies that sometimes widely diverged.
The grand jury accounts flesh out in far more detail what Officer Wilson said happened when he pulled his police car over to confront Brown.
According to Officer Wilson, it didn’t take long for the incident to end in violence.
“I had shielded myself in this type of manner and kind of locked away, so I don’t remember seeing him come at me, but I was hit right in the side of the face with a fist,” Officer Wilson recalled of the encounter in his grand jury testimony, which was made public by the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office.
“I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face.”
Officer Wilson said he felt threatened by Brown’s assault.
“When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he said in his testimony.
At that point, Officer Wilson claimed that Brown tried to get control of his gun.
“He grabs my gun, says, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,’” the officer said in his testimony. “The gun goes down into my hip, and at that point I thought I was getting shot. I can feel his fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger, and I distinctly remember envisioning a bullet going into my leg. I thought that was the next step.”
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