FERGUSON, Mo. - The white police officer who killed Michael Brown has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, nearly four months after the confrontation that fueled protests in the St. Louis suburb and across the nation.
Darren Wilson has been on administrative leave since the Aug. 9 shooting. His resignation was announced Saturday by one of his attorneys, Neil Bruntrager, who confirmed the move to CBS News. Bruntrager says the resignation is effective immediately.
His resignation comes after several weeks of back and forth between his attorneys and attorneys for the city of Ferguson, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reported.
Wilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 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. "I'm not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me," he told the newspaper.
A grand jury spent more than three months reviewing evidence in the case before declining in November to issue any charges against the 28-year-old Wilson. He told jurors that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and grabbed for his gun.
The U.S. 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 Wilson's resignation.
"We were not after Wilson's job," the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, said in a statement to the AP. "We were after Michael Brown's justice."
The shooting struck up a national debate about race and police power.
After the shooting, 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 Brown.
Wilson said he has a clean conscience because "I know I did my job right." 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 Brown had been white, Wilson said yes.
In his resignation letter, Wilson wrote that he felt continuing with the Ferguson police department would place residents and other officers at risk.
"It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me," he wrote. "It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal."
Anthony Gray, an attorney representing the Brown family told the Post-Dispatch that he believes Wilson was acting in his own best interest.
"I think this incident has severely compromised his ability to police in the way he was paid to do by the city," said Gray.
Wilson began his career in nearby Jennings before moving to the Ferguson job a few years ago. He had no previous complaints against him and a good career record, according to Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who called Wilson "an excellent police officer."
A few months before the shooting, Wilson had received a commendation for detaining a suspect in a drug case.
Meanwhile, tensions surrounding the issue remain high. A demonstration outside the courthouse in Clayton, included many mothers who have lost children to gun violence.
"Killing after killing after killing," said Pastor Traci Blackmon. "Some yes at the hands of police and some at the hands of others. It does not matter. We want the blood in our streets to stop"
About 100 protesters at a mall in nearby Brentwood laid down in the aisles of a supermarket, but there were no arrests.
On Monday night, in Ferguson, arsonists turned a dozen businesses like the Little Caesars Pizza into a total loss. Today, some of a dozen former employees gathered outside including Elana, the assistant manager and single mom to daughter Amaya.
For her she said, the hardest part will be trying to provide for her child until she finds a job. "We all need help," she said. "We all need a lot of help right now.
At the Canfield Apartments, where Brown was shot to death, 70 bikers, many of them police and firefighters, rallied in support of Michael Brown but against rioters and looters.
"Tearing up my neighborhood is not going to be accepted," said biker Harland Smith, a retired policeman. "If I have to bring in 100 bikers then that's what I will need to do."