Ferguson jury decision: Obama calls on Americans to accept decision, calls for peaceful protests

US President Barack Obama speaks following the announcement of the decision in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. -- PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama speaks following the announcement of the decision in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP/REUTERS) - United States President Barack Obama made a statement on Monday from the White House after it emerged that a white policeman who shot dead an unarmed black teenager would not face charges, and said they needed to "accept" the jury's decision.

Mr Obama issued an appeal on Monday for restraint by protesters and police. He also asked the people of Fegurson to channel their concerns constructively.

In a late-night appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr Obama also urged Americans to understand that much work remained to be done to improve relations between black Americans and law enforcement. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction,” Mr Obama said.

The family of slain black US teen Michael Brown said they were "profoundly disappointed" by a grand jury's decision not to charge the white police officer who killed him, but called for calm.

"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions," the Brown family said in a statement.

"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change."

Missouri prosecutor Bob McCulloch acknowledged on Monday that the grand jury decision would not be accepted by some people.

But he said it was a good decision to take the case to the grand jury to decide whether any charges were warranted in the Aug 9 shooting death of Brown, and added that the grand jury’s members had “poured their hearts and souls into this.”

But McCulloch declined to say if the jury’s decision was unanimous, noting that grand jury proceedings are completely secret and that only the jury members themselves know the details of the proceedings.

McCulloch described a tangled mass of conflicting testimony from 60 witnesses about what happened during the incident that led to Brown’s death, but said much of it did not square with the physical evidence.

“Many of the same witnesses acknowledged that they did not see the shooting,” McCulloch said. “The grand jury worked tirelessly to examine and reexamine the testimony of all the witnesses and all the physical evidence.”

McCulloch said he met with the jurors on Monday after they reached their decision and said the proceedings had been“draining” for them.

He added that the federal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.

The death in August of 18-year-old Brown sparked several weeks of rioting in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, but on Monday a grand jury decided that Officer Darren Wilson had acted lawfully.

Ferguson police fired tear gas to disperse protesters on Monday after a white policeman escaped charges for shooting dead a black teenager, even as US president Barack Obama has urged police to show "restraint".

Gunshots were heard and bottles were thrown as anger rippled through a crowd outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St Louis after authorities on Monday announced that a grand jury voted not to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, in the August shooting death of the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Whistles pierced the air as some of the hundreds of protesters tried to keep the peace, shouting, “Don’t run, don’t run.”

Police who formed a wall of clear riot shields outside the precinct were pelted with bottles and cans as the crowd surged up and down the street immediately after the grand jury verdict was delivered.

“Murderers, you’re nothing but murderers,” the crowd shouted. One woman, speaking through a megaphone said, “Stinking murderers.”

Not far from the stretch of Ferguson that saw the worst of the rioting after Brown’s fatal shooting in August, dozens of police and military vehicles were poised for possible mass arrests.

“They need to feel the pain these mothers feel at the (expletive) cemetery,” shouted Paulette Wilkes, 40, a teacher’s assistant who was in the crowd at the police department.