The white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in a St. Louis suburb has resigned, his lawyer said on Saturday, as activists set out on a 120-mile (193-km) march to protest the killing and a grand jury’s decision not to indict him.
The resignation of Darren Wilson from the Ferguson, Missouri, police force comes nearly four months after he killed 18-year-old Michael Brown and days after the announcement that he would not face criminal charges.
The incident, which has led to months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, has reignited a debate over race relations and the use of police force in the United States.
Neil Bruntrager, an attorney for Wilson, confirmed that the officer had submitted his resignation, a move that was long anticipated, no matter the outcome of the grand jury’s deliberations.
“In terms of his safety, it is probably the best thing for him,” said Cynthia Burnes, 26, a nurse’s assistant from St. Louis who was among about 50 people gathered in front of the Ferguson police headquarters on Saturday evening. “He is black-listed from this moment on.”
In a letter published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wilson said he had 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.”
Wilson, who said he was acting in self-defense when he shot Brown, said he wanted to wait until after the grand jury’s decision before he made his decision to resign, according to the letter.
After a night of arson and looting in Ferguson following the decision, demonstrations this week spread to other major U.S. cities, with some of the protests targeting shopping malls on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as the holiday shopping season got under way.