On Tuesday, attorneys for the family of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, took out their frustration over the lack of an indictment in the fatal incident on one man: Bob McCulloch.
“We objected back in August to this prosecutor,” said attorney Benjamin Crump. “The process should be indicted.”
McCulloch moved to the center of the nation’s attention with his remarks Tuesday night, broadcast through cable television and streamed online, ahead of the announcement that the grand jury would not indict Wilson. He criticized the media’s coverage of the investigation and targeted users of social media for spreading falsehoods.
“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation,” McCulloch said, “has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything, to talk about, following closely behind with the nonstop rumors on social media.”
St. Louis County’s long-time prosecutor, McCulloch was first elected in 1991. He quickly made a name for himself when he charged Axl Rose, the lead singer for the rock band Guns N’ Roses, with a misdemeanor assault and property damage following a concert where, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 40 concertgoers and 25 police officers were injured.
McCulloch soon gained a reputation not for pursuing rock stars but as a prosecutor who protected police officers, often angering minority communities around St. Louis in the process.
In 2001, McCulloch declined to prosecute two undercover officers who killed two unarmed black drug dealers. The officers said the two men tried to escape and drove their car toward them, but a federal investigation found that they had not moved their car forward. The investigation still concluded, however, that the officers fired in self-defense, and McCulloch called the two suspects “bums.”
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Activists have also raised questions over his family’s long-standing connection to law enforcement. McCulloch’s uncle, brother and cousin were all police officers. His mother worked in the St. Louis Police’s homicide bureau. McCulloch’s father, also a St. Louis police officer, was killed in 1964 by a kidnapper, who was black. Like his father, McCulloch initially wanted to become a police officer but was unable to after losing his right leg to cancer.
Since August, black communities around St. Louis have scrutinized the grand jury investigation into Brown’s death, specifically McCulloch’s decision not to recommend a specific charge for Wilson and instead allowing the grand jury to decide. As TIME’s Alex Altman wrote in September, that non-decision decision was viewed by activists as a way for McCulloch to avoid indictment.
“To present a case to a grand jury, without any direction or instructions with regard to what you want them to achieve gives the best odds that an indictment will not occur,” Adolphus Pruitt of the St. Louis NAACP told TIME then.
On Monday, McCulloch defended the grand jury process and its outcome, saying that eyewitness accounts regarding the incident were often unreliable and that the physical evidence showed that Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.
“Our only goal was that our investigation would be thorough and complete,” McCulloch said. “The grand jury worked tirelessly to examine and reexamine all of the testimony of the witness and all of the physical evidence.”
“As tragic as this is,” McCulloch added, “it was not a crime.”