Ferguson Shooting Case: TV News Pounces on Grand Jury Decision Not to Indict Darren Wilson for Michael Brown Shooting (Updated)

Broadcast networks and cable news channels break in with special coverage of decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, and President Obama calls for calm

Darren Wilson

TV news went wall-to-wall Monday night as the Ferguson grand jury reached a decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9th shooting that killed unarmed 18-year-old teenager Michael Brown.

Minutes after the decision was announced, President Barack Obama held a news conference from the White House and called for calm.

“We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” Mr. Obama said. “I join Michael’s parents asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.” The President did not give a firm answer to a press question on whether he will go to Ferguson himself.

Earlier in the evening, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough gave a lengthy statement on the decision, followed by taking questions from the press. In his remarks, McCullough pointed blame at the 24/7 cable news cycle that wants information quickly and decisions made based on emotions and preconceived notions instead of facts.

It didn’t take long for violence to break out in Ferguson, with protesters toppling police cars, reports of gunfire, and tear gas being dispersed.

As for the media coverage, ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos anchored special coverage on ABC of the grand jury decision, which was announced outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri. NBC News’ Brian Williams provided the network’s special coverage, and Scott Pelley anchored special coverage for CBS News.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement following the announcement of the grand jury's decision in the shooting death of unnamed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The grand jury has decided that officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the fatal shooting. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Getty Images

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC also launched into extensive live coverage of the grand jury’s decision. For CNN, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, and Chris Cuomo are on the ground hosting their respective shows. The network also has Ana Cabrera, Jason Carroll, Stephanie Elam, Sunny Hostin, Ed Lavandera, Evan Perez, and Sara Sidner on the ground in Ferguson.

For MSNBC, Chris Hayes hosted his primetime program “All In” at 8pm ET from Ferguson and will be live at 11pmET. Other MSNBC personalities on the ground include Craig Melvin, Trymaine Lee, Zack Roth, and Amanda Sakuma. Fox News’ entire primetime lineup is live from 8pm-11pm ET, with extended live coverage from 11pm to 1amET. 8pm-10pm is the normal lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and Sean Hannity. At 11pm, Shepard Smith will anchor live from the Fox News Deck. At midnight ET, Megyn Kelly will air a second live edition of “The Kelly File.” FNC correspondents Mike Tobin, Steve Harrigan and Adam Housley are reporting on the ground in Clayton.

As local residents anxiously awaited the decision, Brown’s parents called for calm. They also called for a four-and-a-half-minute moment of silence after the decision. The chosen time period represents the four-and-a-half hours that Brown’s body was left in the streets of Ferguson on Aug. 9.

“Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” Michael Brown Sr said in a video posted online Thursday.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 17, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and authorized the National Guard to assist police officers following the grand jury decision.

“People need to feel safe and to achieve those goals, we need to be prepared,” Nixon said at a news conference.

The FBI also warned police departments around the country that the decision “will likely” lead violent extremists and agitators to exploit peaceful protests and attack law enforcement officers, ABC News reported.

Days before the grand jury ruling, a newly surfaced police radio recording and videos from surveillance cameras at the Ferguson Police Department shed new light on the day that Brown, 18, died.

The audio recording, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Missouri’s Sunshine Law revealed the fatal encounter between Brown and Wilson lasted less than two minutes.

The videos, also obtained by the Post-Dispatch, showed Wilson leaving the Ferguson police station with other officers and a police union lawyer two hours after the fatal shooting, the newspaper reported. The new evidence fueled emotions on both sides.

In the lead-up to the decision, police in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis area prepared for widespread demonstrations. But Governor Nixon warned that no matter the decision, “violence will not be tolerated.”

Nixon cited the “senseless acts of violence and destruction” in the wake of the August shooting as “not representative of Missouri and it cannot be repeated.”

He said, “Citizens should be able to express themselves peacefully without being threatened by people expressing violence and disorder.”

Everyone from activist groups to schools and businesses braced for the decision and the possibility of violence.

Residents stocked up on food and water, businesses were boarded up, and according to local media reports, gun sales surged.

Update: Michael Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr. released a statement in response to the grand jury decision.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction. Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”
Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr.

Anita Bennett and Jason Hughes contributed to this report