Patrick says he wanted indictment in Ferguson shooting

Also offers frank talk on 2016 presidential election

Governor Patrick’s remarks came on NBC’s “Meet the Press” days after a grand jury in Ferguson chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.
Governor Patrick’s remarks came on NBC’s “Meet the Press” days after a grand jury in Ferguson chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.AP/File

Governor Deval Patrick said Sunday that he "wanted to see an indictment" in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and he also acknowledged that he had considered a presidential run in 2016, though he has decided against entering the race.

Patrick's remarks came on NBC's "Meet the Press" days after a grand jury in Ferguson chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the fatal shooting of Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed.

Wilson resigned from the force Saturday, citing the safety of fellow officers if he stayed on.

Patrick, a Democrat and former civil rights enforcer in the Justice Department, told host Chuck Todd that he wanted to see an indictment of Wilson primarily because it would have led to a trial.


"The transparency of a trial would be good for the community," he said, "and because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed, young black teenagers."

A spokeswoman for Patrick said he was not available for a follow-up interview Sunday evening.

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During the NBC interview, Patrick also noted that President Obama has said the legal process must be respected.

"That is separate and apart from the anxiety so many black people have about encounters with law enforcement, the anxiety that some in law enforcement have about their encounters with black people, and the startling lack of understanding between the two," he said.

A Justice Department probe of the shooting remains active. Patrick said federal officials are looking into whether Brown's civil or constitutional rights were violated. Bringing that case will be difficult, he said, but "it's very important, I think, that DOJ is investigating it."


Patrick also said he believes Obama would like to visit Ferguson to comfort Brown's family and reassure the community, but the president would not want to appear to influence the investigation.

On the political front, Patrick once again ruled out a run for president in 2016, though he told Todd that it had crossed his mind in the past.

"I've thought about it, but no, I can't get ready for 2016," Patrick said, without indicating whether he may seek the presidency in 2020 or beyond.

The governor made pointed remarks about the presumptive favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While describing Clinton as "an extraordinary public servant" who would make a "terrific candidate," Patrick also said, "The narrative that it's inevitable is off-putting to regular voters."

"I don't mean that as a criticism of her," Patrick said. "I just think that people read inevitability as entitlement. The American people want, and ought to want, their candidates to sweat for the job, to actually make a case for why they're the right person at the right time."

Patrick also addressed Attorney General Martha Coakley's loss earlier this month to Governor-elect Charlie Baker in the race to succeed him. Patrick leaves office in January.

He had campaigned for Coakley, a fellow Democrat, and Todd asked if he thought Baker's victory amounted to a rejection of his two terms in office.

"I wasn't on the ballot," Patrick said, noting that he won reelection against Baker in 2010.


Pressed by Todd whether he felt at all responsible for Coakley's defeat, Patrick kept the focus squarely on Coakley and Baker, who won by a slim margin of roughly 40,000 votes.

"Well look, I'm sorry," Patrick said. "But the outcomes of elections depend on the candidates, not the folks on the sidelines."

Reflecting on his years as governor, Patrick spoke about how being black changed some voters' expectations of him, just as it has for Obama nationally.

He recalled when a black teenager was killed in Boston during the early part of his tenure, and the boy's anguished mother called him out publicly, asking the media, "Where is the governor?"

"Now, governors aren't normally expected to come to street crime scenes," Patrick said. "She hadn't called out the mayor [Thomas M. Menino, at the time]. But we had run a very grass-roots campaign, so we had engaged a lot of people. And the expectations of me, by virtue of being a black elected official, were different. And I had to learn that. And ultimately, I did go out."

Patrick did not identify the mother in question. But Kim Odom, whose 13-year-old son, Steven was fatally shot in October 2007 near his Dorchester residence, told reporters several days after the slaying that Menino and the police commissioner had visited her family, but she had yet to hear from Patrick. The governor visited the Odom home about three hours later.

"In my grief, I wanted to reach out to someone who I thought could relate to us, in terms of families of color being impacted in the inner city by this violence, gun violence in particular," Odom said Sunday.


She added that when in 2007 a reporter asked Patrick about Odom "calling him out," the governor said in response, " 'Mrs. Odom has a right to make a claim on her government.' And I appreciated those words from the governor."

"My heart goes out to Michael Brown's mother, when I see that mother crying and the pain that she's expressing for the injustice that has happened to that family and her son," Odom said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Kenneth Singletary of BostonGlobe.com contributed.