A small stream of protesters marched in the St. Louis suburb as night fell Friday, but instead of confrontations with police, several stopped to talk one-on-one with officers about the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown and tactics used by authorities during previous demonstrations.
While many residents are hopeful that tensions were waning and eager to end the disruptions to their lives caused by protests and police presence, some say they fear the community's anger could explode anew if the grand jury now considering the case doesn't return a charge against the officer, Darren Wilson.
"This officer has to be indicted. I'd hate to see what happens if he isn't. The rioting, the looting, man ...," said resident Larry Loveless, 29, as he stopped Friday at the memorial for Brown where he was killed.
St. Louis County prosecutors this week convened a grand jury to begin hearing evidence in the case, despite concerns among some in the community — including Brown's parents — that the office would not be impartial because of District Attorney Bob McCulloch's ties to law enforcement. McCulloch's father, mother and other relatives worked for St. Louis police, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect. He has said he will not remove himself from the case.
Considering the racial tensions of the case, even the makeup of the grand jury was being closely scrutinized. Two black women and one black man are on the 12-member panel, along with six white men and three white women, said Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for St. Louis County Circuit Court.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said she's pushing for the local investigation and a separate one being done by the federal government to be completed around the same time so that all evidence in the case can be made public — a step many consider important should prosecutors decide not to charge the officer. Her office said Friday that the Department of Justice hasn't given a timeline for the federal investigation, which centers on whether a civil rights violation occurred when officer Darren Wilson fatally shot the unarmed Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
Gov. Jay Nixon, in an interview Friday with the AP, didn't say if he agreed with McCaskill's call to conclude both investigations at the same time. He said the full focus is on seeking justice.
"To me it's one you've got to get right. Just got to get it right," he said.
Associated Press reporters Ryan J. Foley and Nigel Duara contributed to this report from Ferguson.
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