The Missouri police officer at the heart of a racial controversy roiling the nation decided to resign because of threats against the Ferguson Police Department and its officers, his attorney said Sunday, hours before the White House announced President Obama would enter the raging debates prompted by the Ferguson shooting with a series of White House events.
A White House official said Sunday night that Mr. Obama will hold three meetings Monday focusing on police tactics in minority communities as protests persist over a grand jury’s refusal to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
The White House events, plus ongoing street protests and a federal probe into Officer Darren Wilson’s decision to shoot and kill an unarmed black teen in August will extend into another month.
Mr. Wilson said he feared for his life after scuffling with 18-year-old Michael Brown, a suspect in a store robbery, from his patrol car before confronting him out on the street. He will look for police work elsewhere amid ongoing tensions in Ferguson that could put him in harm’s way.
Already, the department feared violent repercussions against its officers.
“When Darren was told that, he said, ‘That’s enough,’” Mr. Wilson’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, told “Fox News Sunday.”
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said Mr. Wilson did not receive a severance package when he resigned. He will not receive any further pay or benefits either, and he and the city have severed their ties.
Activists called for Mr. Wilson’s ouster after a grand jury decided last week not to indict the 28-year-old, an announcement that produced a ripple of protests in Ferguson and across the country, some of which turned violent and became an opportunity for looting. In Ferguson alone, 12 commercial buildings were destroyed and more than 100 people arrested.
While tensions have calmed somewhat in Ferguson, debate rages on about what happened nearly four months ago, and what it means for race relations in America.
In that context, Mr. Obama will meet with Cabinet members Monday to review federal funding and programs that provide military-style equipment from the Pentagon to local police departments, a program the president and top advisers signaled they were concerned about when armored vehicles and heavy weapons were deployed to confront protesters.
Mr. Obama also will meet with young civil rights leaders “to discuss their efforts and broader challenges we still face as a nation, including the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color,” the official said.
And finally, the president will confer with elected officials, community, civil rights and religious leaders and law enforcement officials from around the country “to discuss how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country,” the aide said.
Since last week’s rioting in Ferguson and elsewhere over the grand jury’s decision, liberal and civil rights leaders have been calling on Mr. Obama to visit Ferguson personally. Monday’s events make it likely that such a visit will not happen.
Before Sunday night’s announcement, departing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who also is black, said Mr. Obama was in a tough spot.
“I think the reason it’s a quandary is because the federal government is investigating right now, and you don’t want to appear to influence that investigation,” the governor told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to the Justice Department’s look at whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.
Others focused on the nuts and bolts of the deadly confrontation between Mr. Wilson and Brown. Some witnesses say Brown charged the officer, while others say he held up his hands to surrender. The latter version produced the protest mantra “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCullough released grand jury testimony to show that several witnesses contested the “hands up” narrative.
“There are seven witnesses who support the police officer’s testimony,” former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor Rudolph W. Giuliani told Fox News.
“It’s an impossible case to present to a grand jury,” he added, saying no other panel in the country would have delivered an indictment.
Forensic evidence also showed, contrary to claims of some of the eyewitness testimony, that a fleeing Brown was shot in the back.
But Daryl Parks, attorney for Brown’s family, said on Fox that the teen could have survived multiple gunshot wounds except the one that entered the apex of his head, meaning Mr. Wilson could have subdued the teen at some point during the episode.
Mr. Wilson’s attorney, meanwhile, hit back at claims the officer should have stayed in his car.
“His job getting out of the car was to keep eyes on [Brown]. What if he heads off the road?” Mr. Bruntrager said.
In one of his interviews since the incident, Mr. Wilson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos he feared for his life during the Aug. 9 confrontation, in which he came up on Brown as a suspect in a robbery that occurred moments earlier. He said his training “took over,” and he used his firearm to protect himself during the confrontation.
Mr. Wilson, in his resignation letter, wrote that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow.”
Benjamin Crump, another attorney for Brown’s family, said the resignation was not a surprise.
“It was always believed that the police officer would do what was in his best interest, both personally and professionally,” Mr. Crump said. “We didn’t believe that he would be able to be effective for the Ferguson community nor the Ferguson Police Department because of the tragic circumstances that claimed the life of Michael Brown Jr.”
Mr. Crump said the family is still considering civil litigation such as a wrongful death lawsuit, “but don’t let that get confused with the fact that they really wanted the killer of their child to be held accountable.”
One elected official from St. Louis was even more direct.
“I found Officer Wilson to be remorseless, cold and, frankly, a lot of his answers sounded like they were prepared by a lawyer,” St. Louis Alderman Antonio French told ABC.
Mr. French also took issue with authorities who said they could not predict the degree of violence that seized Ferguson immediately after the prosecutor’s announcement that Mr. Wilson would not be indicted.
“We really had a powder keg here,” he said. “And so for the county prosecutor to decide to release the grand jury announcement at nighttime, for the governor to preemptively call a state of emergency and call in National Guard, yet [not] deploy them to West Florissant [Avenue] or other areas that had been repeatedly [hit] by violence really showed a failure to grasp the situation and to handle it on the part of [the] government.”
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.