Nearly a year after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, a magazine profile of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot him, says he has been living a “very quiet life.”
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man almost a year ago, now lives on a dead-end street on the outskirts of St. Louis. His name is not on the deed of the house. He wears a hat and sunglasses when he goes outside to greet a reporter, having synced his phone with a security system to tip him off to his visitor’s arrival.
Nearly a year after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 19, The New Yorker has published a profile of Wilson by the writer Jake Halpern, who spent several days at Wilson’s home, where he has been living a “very quiet life.”
The narrative offers a window into Wilson’s life in the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., which was followed by other episodes around the country that have fueled a national debate about race and police misconduct, and into Wilson’s thinking about race and his work as a police officer. It includes perspective from Brown’s family members and activists.
In the months after the shooting, little has been heard directly from Wilson, who left the Ferguson police force and was not indicted in Brown’s death.
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Wilson said he had received death threats. He rarely lingers in the front yard, the article says. When his wife gave birth, he told her to check in to a hospital anonymously. He watches his stepson’s baseball practices from a parked vehicle. As he describes it, he is unable to find work as a police officer, having been told that he would be a liability.
In the article, Wilson spoke of his early efforts to fit in after he started working in 2009 as an officer in Jennings, a town on Ferguson’s southeastern border with a police department that had a reputation for racism. He described feeling intimidated and unprepared as he interacted with residents.
“I’d never been in an area where there was that much poverty,” Wilson was quoted as saying in the article.
Some of Wilson’s lengthier quotations emanate from questions about race and policing. When asked whether he thought some young people used the legacy of racism as an excuse, he said, “I think so.”
“I am really simple in the way that I look at life,” Wilson said. “What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can’t base my actions off what happened to him.”
He also said that police officers do not have the luxury of dwelling on the past. “We can’t fix in 30 minutes what happened 30 years ago,” he said. “We have to fix what’s happening now. That’s my job as a police officer. I’m not going to delve into people’s lifelong history and figure out why they’re feeling a certain way, in a certain moment.”
He also said that race had not affected the way he did police work: “I never looked at it like ‘I’m the only white guy here.’ I just looked at it as ‘This isn’t where I grew up.’”
“When I left Jennings, I didn’t want to work in a white area,” Wilson told Halpern. “I liked the black community,” he went on. “I had fun there. There’s people who will just crack you up.”
Regarding his time working in Ferguson, Wilson spoke of some of his interactions with black youth there, attributing some of their problems to a “different culture.” Pressed by the reporter, Wilson struggled to respond.
He said that he meant “pre-gang culture, where you are just running in the streets — not worried about working in the morning, just worried about your immediate gratification.” He added, “It is the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities.”
Wilson said some police officers in Ferguson were bigoted, but he denied that racism was institutional in the department.
Halpern’s article also quotes extensively from the Justice Department report about that day in August when Wilson shot Brown in the street, including how Wilson described Brown’s appearance as similar to a “demon.”
During the interview, Wilson rarely spoke of Brown. Halpern said he asked Wilson if he had reflected on what kind of person Brown was. The first time was in May, after Brown’s parents filed a lawsuit against him. “You do realize that his parents are suing me?” Wilson said. “So I have to think about him.”
He went on: “Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point. Do I think he had the best upbringing? No. Not at all.”
Michael Brown Sr., the slain man’s father, said in the article that he feels “resentment” toward Wilson and that his son “was an average kid that did teenage things and had fun and tried to live his life.”
At one point, Wilson was asked if he missed walking outside and going to restaurants. He replied that he ate only at certain places. “We try to go somewhere — how do I say this correctly? — with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”