Ferguson police officer says he has 'clean conscience'

Ferguson police officer says he has 'clean conscience'

FERGUSON, United States - The white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in the US town of Ferguson said Tuesday he has a "clean conscience" and would not do anything differently if given the chance.

Darren Wilson said he feared for his life before he drew his gun - the first time he had used his firearm on the job in the St Louis suburb - before opening fire, killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.

"The reason I have a clean conscience is because I know I did my job right," Wilson told ABC News, speaking publicly for the first time since the August 9 shooting.

"I don't think it's haunting. It's always going to be something that happened." When asked if it would have ended the same way if Brown was white, Wilson answered: "Yes... no question." He described Brown as a "powerful man," comparing him to professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.

"He charged me, he was going to kill me," he said.

A grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Wilson, sparking a night of violent riots in Ferguson, a town of 21,000 with a mostly white police force.

Civil lawsuit may be only recourse for Ferguson teen's family

Without a criminal indictment, Michael Brown's family might have no better legal recourse than to sue local authorities for the African-American teenager's fatal shooting by a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.

After a St. Louis County grand jury decided on Monday not to indict officer Darren Wilson - and given the high bar to a federal criminal prosecution - the family may follow the path of other high-profile US police shootings and file a civil lawsuit for wrongful death or civil rights violations.

In some such cases, the authorities who oversee police departments agree to settle for millions of dollars. "There might be a lot of political forces that would be at work that would give the Brown family a chance at a quick settlement," said New York lawyer and former prosecutor Paul Callan.

The burden of proof in a US civil suit is lower than in a criminal case. A plaintiff needs to show liability only by the preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.

In recent years, New York City agreed to pay US$7.15 million (S$9.29 million) to the family and friends of Sean Bell; Chicago agreed to a US$4.1 million settlement with the family of Flint Farmer; and a California transit agency said it would pay $2.8 million to the family of Oscar Grant, according to news reports at the time.

All three men were shot to death by police officers in cases that drew widespread attention but not murder convictions.

Rodney King sued Los Angeles after his videotaped 1991 beating by police, and a jury awarded him US$3.8 million. "There are so few cases in which officers are criminally charged, but plenty of instances in which very successful civil rights cases are brought," said Joanna Schwartz, a UCLA law professor.

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