FERGUSON, Mo. – The white police officer who killed Michael Brown has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, his attorney said Saturday, nearly four months after the fatal confrontation with the black 18-year-old that led to protests across the U.S.
Darren Wilson, 28, had been on administrative leave since the shooting on Aug. 9. The resignation is effective immediately, said one of his attorneys, Neil Bruntrager.
The attorney for the Brown family, Benjamin Crump, did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment.
Wilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper he was stepping down out of his “own free will” after the police department told him it had received threats of violence if he remained an employee.
“I’m not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me,” he told the newspaper.
The shooting led to a national debate about race and police power.
Wilson fatally shot Brown after a scuffle in the middle of a street, where Brown’s body lay for several hours as police investigated and a crowd of angry onlookers gathered. Several days of tense and at times violent protests followed, prompting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard to help.
Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. Wilson told a grand jury that reviewed the case that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun.
The grand jury spent more than three months reviewing evidence before declining to issue any charges against Wilson.
The U.S. Justice Department is still conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate probe of police department practices.
Several protesters in Ferguson shrugged their shoulders or expressed disinterest in the news of Wilson’s resignation.
“We were not after Wilson’s job,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We were after Michael Brown’s justice.”
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson didn’t immediately return a message left on his cellphone seeking comment.
After the shooting, Wilson spent months in hiding and made no public statements. He broke his silence after the grand jury decision, telling ABC News that he could not have done anything differently in the encounter with Brown.
Wilson said he has a clean conscience because “I know I did my job right.” Brown’s shooting was the first time he fired his gun on the job, he said.
Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Brown had been white, Wilson said yes.
Wilson had no previous complaints against him and a good career record, according to Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who called Wilson “an excellent police officer.”