With 89% of precincts reporting, #Ferguson City Councilman #WesleyBell has defeated incumbent St. Louis County Prosecutor #BobMcCulloch 83,052 (55%) to 67,966 (45%). At long last, #BlackLivesMatter in St. Louis. You may shout now. #p2 pic.twitter.com/KjbuuA29J3— skeptical brotha 🌈 (@skepticalbrotha) August 8, 2018
St. Louis County voters ousted Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor who refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the infamous 2014 shooting death of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, in Ferguson.
Wesley Bell was hailed victorious in a huge upset in the Democratic primary for top prosecutor.
McCulloch had been an incumbent for 27 years before finally being pushed out.
Bell’s victory in the primary ensured he will be the next prosecuting for the attorney, with no Republican challenger from the county.
McCulloch was widely panned for his incompetent handling of the Ferguson shooting, which gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement on police accountability and discrimination against the African -American community.
Of the 661,393 registered voters in St. Louis County, Missouri, only 84,023 voted for Bob McCulloch for St. Louis County Prosecutor in the August 5, 2014 primary.— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 30, 2018
Four days later, Michael Brown was shot and killed.
On Tuesday, Aug. 7, voters can elect Wesley Bell (@Bell4STL). pic.twitter.com/pfXtuGOCxM
St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch garnered national attention — and criticism — when he declined to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown.
McCulloch is up for re-election for a seat he has held for nearly 30 years. However, his reign may be challenged this time around as it comes only two days before Brown’s fourth death anniversary.
McCulloch has an advantage of being long time incumbent but he could swiftly be ousted in the region which rose to international popularity after Ferguson protests highlighted the police’s disparity in dealing with the African-American community.
The subsequent protests, after Wilson was made to walk free, gave birth to a new generation of black rights activist, called Black Lives Matter.
And McCulloch’s handling of the infamous case, which has been largely criticized, may just be what brings him down.
McCulloch faces competition from Wesley Bell, a two-term Ferguson City Council member with experience as a public defender, municipal judge, and prosecutor.
Wesley was one of the many black leaders elected after Brown’s case and its handling raised awareness over the lack of diversity within the law enforcement agencies.
He has helped develop reforms for police and court accountability in Ferguson and hopes to do so the same in the county if elected.
“People realize the need for change, they realize the need for criminal justice reform,” Bell said. “When we talk about reforming the cash bail system or ending mass incarceration, I wouldn’t call those radical. I would call those policies that work and help people.”
McCulloch’s role in the Brown case brought him under fire for several reasons.
- First, his relationship with the police put his credibility into question, yet he refused to allow a special prosecutor on the case.
- Grand jurors in the Brown case were barraged with documents and confusing instructions. They were never directed on whether to indict Wilson.
- The prosecutor knew at least one witness reportedly lied during her testimony.
- One of the grand jurors has sued to speak about his experience of the Brown case, which contradicts McCulloch’s account.
When McCulloch announced Wilson’s release, he never once mentioned Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting, where the teenager was shot six times from the front.
Wilson claimed he was answering to a robbery call and stated he was acting in self defense when he used the firearm on the teenager. A video, surfaced later, contradicts that claim.
“He completely dropped the ball,” Bell said of McCulloch’s performance. “I don’t think anyone denies that the way that it was handled was incompetent—at best—and a sign of a need for change.”
McCulloch has stood by his dealing of the infamous case.
Brown’s death wasn’t the first time McCulloch refused to indict a police officer for killing black citizens.
In 2001, two undercover drug officers shot two unarmed Black men 21 times in a parking lot. McCulloch refused to prosecute them, calling the victims “bums.”
Activists from Ferguson have been trying to rid the county office from McCulloch for years.
During the 2014 general elections, 11,000 votes were cast against the incumbent, even though he ran unopposed.
Protests against police brutality continue to this day. But so does McCulloch’s rhetoric against the black community.
Ferguson protester Joshua Williams was told to be made an “example” of by prosecutors from McCulloch’s office, after he was sentenced to eight years in prison. State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. asked Williams to be pardoned for setting fire to a convenience store during a 2014 protest.
Adding to his list of disparity against the black community, McCulloch also vehemently defended the death sentence of Marcellus Williams, who convicted of fatally stabbing a local reporter in 2001. However, Williams’ case is now under review after new DNA evidence could prove him innocent.
Despite his performance, McCulloch believes his experience as a prosecutor will see him through in the re-election.
“The public has the confidence in the job I’ve done,” McCulloch said. “It takes experience. It takes knowledge. … This is an office that I would put up against any office in the country.”
While he still leads Wesley in the local polls, activists believe this re-election is an opportunity for change.
“Bob McCulloch represents institutional racism in criminal justice,” said Redditt Hudson, vice president of civil rights and advocacy at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “Wesley Bell represents the opportunity to create change.”
Hudson is also one of the four activists who have sued McCulloch to be removed from office.
Wesley might be an underdog in the race against McCulloch but the drive for change and the reform movement since Brown’s death may just be enough to push out a 27-year-incumnent from office once and for all.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images