Mike Brown case heading to grand jury

FERGUSON, Mo. — St. Louis County prosecutors plan to begin presenting evidence Wednesday to a local grand jury as part of its investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Edward Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, said local investigators have interviewed Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson and he will be "offered the opportunity'' to testify if he chooses.

Magee said the case will be presented to a regular grand jury that already has been seated. He said the panel has a few weeks remaining in its current term. He did not know how long it would take to present the case.

"We will extend the term, if necessary,'' Magee said.

A federal inquiry is also happening on parallel tracks.

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Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday promised a "fair and thorough'' investigation in to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in advance of his Wednesday trip to Ferguson.

"Since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, the nation and the world have witnessed the unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo,'' Holder wrote. "At the core of these demonstrations is a demand for answers about the circumstances of this young man's death and a broader concern about the state of our criminal justice system.''

Holder said he was traveling to the city to be briefed on the federal civil rights inquiry. He said "hundreds" of potential witnesses have been interviewed, but he cautioned the inquiry will "take time to complete."

"At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,'' Holder wrote.

"Approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division's most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process,'' the attorney general said, adding that the federal autopsy he called for over the weekend was completed Monday. Like the family's examination, additional investigation is needed to determine critical facts, including whether Brown was facing the officer when he was shot and the distance between Brown and the officer at the time of the shooting.

Holder said he hopes the federal investigation will bring a measure of calm to Ferguson, but he called for "an end to the acts of violence." He also called on the police to help reduce tensions and regain the community's trust.

Local leaders pleaded for calm and promised changes in the police department as the city braced for another night of protests and possible confrontation.

"We plan to learn from this tragedy," city officials said in a statement. Officials are working to increase the number of black law enforcement applicants and raise funds for cameras for patrol car dashboards and officer vests, the statement said.

Ten days of protests and violence are taking their toll on this normally quiet city of 21,000 people 12 miles from St. Louis.

"This has to stop," Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said Tuesday.

Johnson is tasked with bringing peace to a city torn apart by violence since Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer, setting off the angry protests that have made international headlines.

Brown's funeral will be Monday, family lawyer Benjamin Crump said. Activist Al Sharpton will give the eulogy.

Also Tuesday, a 23-year-old man was fatally shot by a police officer in north St. Louis, just a few miles from Ferguson. Authorities said he had threatened officers with a knife after imploring them to kill him.

In Ferguson, streets were quiet Tuesday, hours after peaceful demonstrations once again descended into chaos with police saying they came "under heavy gunfire" and arresting 78 people.

Johnson said four police officers were injured by thrown rocks and bottles, at least two people were shot and two fires were set during another night of clashes between police and protesters that lasted into early Tuesday.

Johnson lauded local police, state troopers and National Guard personnel, saying they "acted with restraint and calm." He said police were shot at but did not fire any shots themselves.

"I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want an officer to get hurt, I don't want a citizen to get hurt. We have to find a way to stop it."

Even in daylight hours, life has not returned to normal. The school year had been scheduled to begin more than a week ago, but Ferguson-Florissant district officials canceled classes last week because of the unrest. Then they canceled Monday. Now they say they will try for next Monday.

"This decision was made after much careful deliberation and consideration of input received from local law enforcement officials and district security staff," the district said in a statement. "We believe that closing schools for the rest of this week will allow needed time for peace and stability to be restored to our community and allow families to plan ahead for the additional days that children will be out of school."

Businesses are hurting. Kathleen Osborn, executive director of the Regional Business Council in the St. Louis area, said about 25 businesses have been directly damaged by violence, many more simply by fear that is keeping many residents from leaving their homes.

"The tragedy of it is that we are talking about small businesses," she told USA TODAY. "Yet they are extraordinarily resilient. Some of these business owners get up in the morning, clean up their damage and open their stores. The problem is that you can't get them fully back in order until you know there won't be any more damage."

Many protesters realize the violence has to stop. Monday night, a group of people trying to keep the peace locked arms and managed to position themselves between the more confrontational protesters and the police line. However, while many among the protesters clamored for calm, some in the crowd appeared determined to provoke an incident.

Johnson said some of those arrested were from as far as New York and California — part of what he called "a dangerous dynamic of the night."

In fact, of the 78 arrests, only four were Ferguson residents. Eighteen were from out of state.

"Our peaceful protesters are not the enemy," Johnson said. "Tonight we closed the roadway; we allowed those who come in peace to walk the roadway."

Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor


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