PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced the decision Monday evening. A grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence.
At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson.
The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges.
As the nation awaited the announcement, authorities quickly stepped up security around the courthouse. Barricades were erected, and more than 20 Missouri state troopers were seen silently assembling with rifles, 3-foot batons, riot shields and other equipment. Some nearby businesses boarded up their windows, just as many shops have already done near the site of Brown’s death in Ferguson.
Dozens of people were gathered outside of the Allegheny County Courthouse on Grant Street in a peaceful protest.
Most of the protesters were seen standing silently outside the courthouse, some carrying signs.
At other points, protesters chanted, expressing that Pittsburgh is in solidarity with Ferguson.
They chanted “Justice for Michael Brown. Racist cops shut ‘em down.” The protest was short-lived, with activists saying they plan to regroup Tuesday at the federal courthouse.
Organizers say there will be no official reaction tonight, but will have one tomorrow.
One of the protest organizers, Julia Johnson, said demonstrators will gather Tuesday at 2 p.m. outside the federal building on Liberty Avenue for a peaceful protest.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also spoke out after learning of the grand jury’s decision.
“Ferguson may be hundreds of miles away, but the reverberations from August’s shooting are still felt, understandably, in Pittsburgh and other cities nationwide,”Peduto said in a statement. “I know it this is hard right now, but it is my fervent hope that in coming days we can use this decision as an opportunity to come together — in peace and in prayer — to do the necessary work of strengthening ties between residents and police, and finding new paths to mutual trust and understanding.”
Pittsburgh Police were expected to have increased patrols. Police said late Monday night that they didn’t have any incidents after the grand jury decision was handed down.
In other areas, school and business closings scrolled on local television as if there were a snowstorm.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urged people to remain peaceful as he appeared at a news conference with the state’s public safety director and the leaders of St. Louis city and county.
“Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint,” Nixon said.
The governor said he did not know what the grand jury had decided.
Hours before the announcement, dozens of people gathered in the parking lot across the street from the Ferguson Police Department. Many stood right at the edge of the lot, almost in the street, chanting things “no justice, no peace, no racist police.”
One woman leading the group screamed through a bullhorn “indict that cop. Police don’t like it. We want an indictment.”
Several young men in hooded sweatshirts that said “Peace Keepers” kept people from streaming into the street. A couple of people approached the police department building, but a woman asked them to protest the right way and pulled them into a prayer circle. Shortly after that, 15 uniformed officers came out to monitor the protests.
The grand jury has been considering charges against Darren Wilson, the white suburban St. Louis officer who fatally shot the black 18-year-old after a confrontation in August.
The Aug. 9 shooting inflamed tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force. As Brown’s body lay for hours in the center of a residential street, an angry crowd of onlookers gathered. Rioting and looting occurred the following night, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.
Protests continued for weeks – often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Nixon said the National Guard will provide security at “critical facilities,” such as police and fire stations and utility substations, and would offer other support as needed.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said demonstrators would be given leeway to slow down traffic in the streets, but “we will not allow them to hurt anyone or damage anyone’s property.”
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley urged people to “think with their head and not with their emotion.”
Anticipating the potential for large demonstrations, more than 15 school districts canceled Monday evening activities and several extended their Thanksgiving break by canceling classes Tuesday. Washington University closed a satellite campus in Clayton.
Pastors were planning a rally and prayer service later Monday evening at the West Side Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.
“There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of brokenness. There’s anger and frustration on every side,” said the Rev. Ronald Bobo Sr., the church’s pastor. “We need the hand of God to lead us and guide us.”
The 12-person grand jury met in secret for months, hearing evidence from a wide variety of witnesses as it weighed whether Wilson’s should face charges that could range from involuntary manslaughter to murder. The grand jurors could also decide not to charge Wilson at all.
At the lower end of the possible charges is second-degree involuntary manslaughter, which is defined as acting with criminal negligence to cause a death. It is punishable by up to four years in prison. The most serious charge, first-degree murder, can be used only when someone knowingly causes a death after deliberation and is punishable by either life in prison or lethal injection.
CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman joined “The KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway from Ferguson to talk about the latest following the rioting overnight. He spent the night on the streets of Ferguson and talked about what he saw.
Futterman, who has covered some riots in the past says he thinks the worst could be over.
“My hunch is that police are really going to crack down (Tuesday) night and it’s possible we may have seen the worst last night,” he said.
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