November 25, 2014 / 9:56 PM / 5 years ago

Ferguson cop testified he feared for his life, shot to kill

(Reuters) - The white police officer recalled that he felt like a powerless child sitting inside his patrol vehicle as the fist of a black teenager swung through his open window.

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in a photo, presented to the grand jury, taken shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown. REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office

Just moments later, 28-year-old Darren Wilson would shoot dead Michael Brown, 18, in an incident that has sharply divided the country amid conflicting accounts of what happened in the middle of a street in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

Wilson has not spoken publicly about the events, but newly released documents detailing his testimony to a grand jury that eventually declined to indict him reveal what happened from his perspective.

Wilson, who is about 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, said he struggled with Brown, who was about the same height and 289 pounds, from inside his police car.

“I felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan,” he said.

Brown’s family and supporters have maintained a different version of events, saying the unarmed teenager was the victim of an officer who aggressively confronted their son and then shot him while his hands were raised in a sign of surrender.

Events began to unfold, Wilson told the grand jury, when he stopped Brown about halfway into a 12-hour shift, which began at 6:30 a.m., and observed he was holding cigarillos that had just been reported stolen from a nearby store.

The first thing he noticed about Brown was how big he was, walking in the middle of a road with a smaller friend, Dorian Johnson.

Wilson, who has been on paid administrative leave since the shootings, did not learn their names until the next day, according to his testimony.

Initially, he said, he tried to talk to Brown from inside his police vehicle, but the teen cursed at Wilson and then lunged at him.

Brown landed two punches to his face, Wilson testified, adding that he feared a third could have been deadly.

With no taser in his car, Wilson considered using mace or a flashlight in defense, but the five-year police veteran said he felt neither would be effective.

He drew his gun, which Brown had grabbed and twisted until it dug into Wilson’s hip, Wilson testified.

“I said, ‘Get back or I’m going to shoot you,’ “ Wilson recalled saying.

“He immediately grabs my gun and says, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,’ “

Wilson said he fired a shot from inside in the vehicle, shattering the window. It was the first time he had fired his weapon at someone on duty, he said.

According to Wilson’s testimony, Brown stepped back, then lunged again. Wilson fired again and Brown began to run. Wilson exited the car and chased him.

Across the street, Brown stopped and turned to face Wilson, who was standing no more than 10 feet away.

Wilson said he told Brown to get on the ground. Brown did not. Backing up rapidly, Wilson fired multiple rounds of shots.

“I know if he reaches me, he kills me,” Wilson testified.

Wilson said he didn’t know how many bullets struck Brown, but he saw at least one make contact. Brown fell face forward, and Wilson said he knew he was dead.

Later, when police backup arrived at the shooting scene, a sergeant asked Wilson what had happened. “I said, I had to kill him,” according to his testimony.

Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis and Brendan O'Brian in Milwaukee. Editing by Douglas Royalty

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