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US police officer who shot dead unarmed black teen resigns

The white police officer who killed Michael Brown has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, nearly four months after the fatal confrontation with the black 18-year-old that led to protests across the US.

Darren Wilson, 28, had been on administrative leave since the shooting on August 9.

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Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. Photo/Brown Family, Ferguson

Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. Photo/Brown Family, Ferguson

AP

Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. Photo/Brown Family, Ferguson

The resignation is effective immediately, said one of his lawyers, Neil Bruntrager.

Mr Wilson told the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper he was stepping down out of his "own free will" after the police department told him it had received threats of violence if he remained an employee.

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Officer Darren Wilson. REUTERS

Officer Darren Wilson. REUTERS

REUTERS

Officer Darren Wilson. REUTERS

"I'm not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me," he told the newspaper.

The shooting led to a national debate about race and police power.

Mr Wilson fatally shot Mr Brown after a scuffle in the middle of a street, where the teenager's body lay for several hours as police investigated and a crowd of angry onlookers gathered.

Several days of tense and at times violent protests followed, prompting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard to help.

Some witnesses have said Mr Brown had his hands up when Mr Wilson shot him.

The officer told a grand jury that reviewed the case that he feared for his life when Mr Brown hit him and reached for his gun.

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A police car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Gunshots were heard and bottles were thrown as anger rippled through a crowd outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St. Louis after authorities on Monday announced that a grand jury voted not to indict a white officer in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teen (REUTERS/Jim Young)

A police car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Gunshots were heard and bottles were thrown as anger rippled through a crowd outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St. Louis after authorities on Monday announced that a grand jury voted not to indict a white officer in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teen (REUTERS/Jim Young)

REUTERS

Police officers stand next to a vandalized police car outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown November 24, 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown,  St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said. REUTERS/Jim Young

Police officers stand next to a vandalized police car outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown November 24, 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said. REUTERS/Jim Young

REUTERS

A protester demonstrates in Times Square after the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York November 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A protester demonstrates in Times Square after the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

Demonstrators push down New York Police Department (NYPD) barricades during a protest against the verdict announced in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, at Union Square in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Demonstrators push down New York Police Department (NYPD) barricades during a protest against the verdict announced in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, at Union Square in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Reuters

Protesters vandalize a police car outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown November 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Young

Protesters vandalize a police car outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

REUTERS

Protesters shout slogans against the law as they march on the street during a rally in New York, November 24, 2014, after the grand jury decided not to charge a Ferguson police officer in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Protesters shout slogans against the law as they march on the street during a rally in New York, November 24, 2014, after the grand jury decided not to charge a Ferguson police officer in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

REUTERS

Missouri State Troopers in riot gear stand in formation outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Missouri State Troopers in riot gear stand in formation outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

REUTERS

Protesters chant "Hands up, don't shoot" during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Protesters chant "Hands up, don't shoot" during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

Protesters chant "Hands up don't shoot" during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York November 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Protesters chant "Hands up don't shoot" during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office photo shows Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson photo taken shortly after August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, presented to the grand jury and made available on November 24, 2014.   REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters

St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office photo shows Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson photo taken shortly after August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, presented to the grand jury and made available on November 24, 2014. REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters

REUTERS

Police detain a protester during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Police detain a protester during a demonstration on Times Square following the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

A protester sits in a police van after being detained in Times Square following the announcement of the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A protester sits in a police van after being detained in Times Square following the announcement of the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in New York November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

A woman leads the chant "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A woman leads the chant "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

REUTERS

A man holds a sign reading "Black Lives Matter" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A man holds a sign reading "Black Lives Matter" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

REUTERS

A man holds a sign reading "From Boston to Ferguson, cops are racist murderers" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A man holds a sign reading "From Boston to Ferguson, cops are racist murderers" as demonstrators react to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

REUTERS

Demonstrators reacting to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown hold hands during four-and-a-half minutes of silence in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Demonstrators reacting to the grand jury decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown hold hands during four-and-a-half minutes of silence in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

REUTERS

A masked protester holds a flare during a demonstration, following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California November 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A masked protester holds a flare during a demonstration, following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

REUTERS

A protester is pushed by a police officer off the ramp of Highway 580 during a demonstration, following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A protester is pushed by a police officer off the ramp of Highway 580 during a demonstration, following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

REUTERS

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A police car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Gunshots were heard and bottles were thrown as anger rippled through a crowd outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St. Louis after authorities on Monday announced that a grand jury voted not to indict a white officer in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teen (REUTERS/Jim Young)

The grand jury spent more than three months reviewing evidence before declining to issue any charges against Mr Wilson.

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Demonstrators take part in a "mock trial" of white policeman Darren Wilson as they protest a grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in St. Louis, Missouri. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Demonstrators take part in a "mock trial" of white policeman Darren Wilson as they protest a grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in St. Louis, Missouri. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

REUTERS

Demonstrators take part in a "mock trial" of white policeman Darren Wilson as they protest a grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in St. Louis, Missouri. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The US Justice Department is still conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate probe of police department practices.

Several protesters in Ferguson shrugged their shoulders or expressed disinterest in the news of the resignation.

"We were not after Wilson's job," the Rev Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, said. "We were after Michael Brown's justice."

After the shooting, Mr Wilson spent months in hiding and made no public statements.

He broke his silence after the grand jury decision, telling ABC News that he could not have done anything differently in the encounter with Mr Brown.

Mr Wilson said he has a clean conscience because "I know I did my job right". Mr Brown's shooting was the first time he fired his gun on the job, he said.

Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Mr Brown had been white, the officer said yes.

Mr Wilson had no previous complaints against him and a good career record, according to Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who called him "an excellent police officer".

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