THE white police officer at the centre of protests which began in Ferguson, Missouri, before spreading to more than a dozen cities across the US has broken his silence, saying he “never wanted to take anybody’s life” and that he feels sorry about the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
Rioting broke out on Monday night after the grand jury refused to lay charges against police officer Darren Wilson, who killed the 18-year-old by shooting him six times following a confrontation in August.
The atmosphere in Ferguson remains volatile following a second night of disorder which saw tear gas being fired at protesters after a police car was set alight outside City Hall in the St Louis suburb and 58 people arrested, including four for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
There was also rioting in Oakland, California, while hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets of Los Angeles before a splinter group briefly managed to shut down a motorway.
Speaking in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America show yesterday, Mr Wilson, 28, said he has a clean conscience because “I know I did my job right” and said he followed his training when he shot the unarmed teenager.
During their confrontation, he said: “The only emotion I ever felt was fear, and then it was survival and training.”
Mr Wilson added he only fired at Michael Brown when the teenager was facing him, and never when his back was turned. He said he saw in the teenager a high level of aggression and anger that was “almost unfathomable”.
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The police officer, who had been with the Ferguson police force for less than three years before the shooting, said that it was the first time he had fired his gun on the job.
He said he understands the teenager’s parents’ anger because they are grieving for their son. He added: “I’m sorry that their son lost his life.”
Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Michael Brown had been white, Mr Wilson said yes.
Attorneys for the Brown family vowed to push for federal charges against Mr Wilson and said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear him.
The family said they have been left feeling “crushed” by the grand jury decision not to charge the police officer.
Mr Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr, said “terrible” things had been said about his son, and prosecutors had “crucified his character”.
He urged protesters to avoid violence, saying: “My son was a good guy, a quiet guy. So in his name I want to keep it on a positive note.”
Michael Brown’s supporters said he was attempting to surrender to Mr Wilson when he was shot.
The teenager’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said it had been a “sleepless, very hard, heartbreaking and unbelievable” time for her since the grand jury announcement.
During an interview on NBC’s Today show yesterday, Ms McSpadden added that she felt Mr Wilson’s description of her son as looking demonic during their confrontation on 9 August was disrespectful and “added insult to injury”.
She said she had not seen video of her husband, Michael Brown’s stepfather Louis Head, yelling “Burn this bitch down” to angry protesters after the grand jury decision was announced on Monday night.
She said the crowd “was already stirred” and the authorities are to blame for the protests.
Other cities have seen protests, with demonstrators taking up the chant “Hands up, don’t shoot” to draw attention to Michael Brown’s killing and other deaths that police officers were involved in.
There were peaceful demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle.
President Barack Obama, announcing a nationwide campaign to ensure law enforcement in the US was “fair”, said he had “no sympathy” for people “destroying their own community” through anger at the police.
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