ST. LOUIS – Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson told ABC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday that “all I wanted to do is live” in the moments before he shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
The interview, with “Good Morning America” co-host George Stephanopoulos, aired less than 24 hours after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that Wilson would not face criminal charges for the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, setting off unrest throughout the St. Louis area.
Wilson told his version of the events of Aug.9, the day of the fatal shooting. The officer recounted stopping his vehicle on Canfield Drive to talk to Wilson, who was walking on the street.
Wilson said he opened his car door, and Brown “slammed my door shut on me.”
Then, Wilson said, “all of a sudden, punches start flying.”
“He threw the first one, and it hit me in the left side of my face,” Wilson told Stephanopoulos. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to withstand another hit like that.”
Wilson’s interview largely matched the testimony he gave to the St. Louis County grand jury, which was released Monday night.
Wilson said Brown reached into his car and grabbed at his gun.
“I just felt the immense power that he had. And the way I’ve described it is it was like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big this man was,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Brown tried to get Wilson’s gun. Wilson pulled the trigger twice, he said, but it failed to fire. When he pulled the trigger again, Wilson said, the pistol went off. Brown ran away and Wilson followed, he said.
“My job isn’t to just sit and wait,” Wilson said.
After a short chase, Brown stopped, turned and began coming for Wilson, the officer said.
Wilson denied some witness claims that Brown had his hands up. “That would be incorrect,” Wilson said.
As Brown approached, Wilson said he warned him to stop. When he didn’t stop, Wilson fired his handgun.
“I had to. If I don’t, he will kill me if he gets to me,” Wilson said.
Brown, who had been hit, continued to come toward Wilson, the officer said. Wilson fired again and began backing away.
“He gets to about 8 or 10 feet, and as he does that he kind of starts to lean forward, like he’s going to tackle me. And I look down the barrel of my gun and I fired and what I saw was his head, and that’s where (the bullet) went.”
Wilson told Stephanopoulos that he isn’t haunted by the incident. He said he can think of nothing he could have done to avoid shooting Brown.
“It’s always going to be something that happened,” Wilson said.
He added: “The reason I have a clean conscience is because I know I did my job right.”
The interview was the first time Wilson spoke publicly to a news organization about the Brown shooting. On Sunday, as the grand jury decision loomed, CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon both acknowledged they met with Wilson but didn’t get the interview.
Stephanopoulos said he interviewed Wilson on Tuesday for more than one hour, with no question left off the table. Only a few minutes of the interview aired on Tuesday night’s “World News Tonight” on ABC. More of the interview will be aired on Wednesday morning’s “Good Morning America.”