A grand jury will soon decide the fate of Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, but regardless of whether Wilson is indicted for shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown, it seems the officer will no longer be a member the city's police force.
People close to Wilson told the New York Times that he plans to resign from the Ferguson Police Department ahead of the jury's decision, which is expected to ignite another series of protests in the St. Louis suburb that has been in turmoil since the August 9 shooting of Brown.
The grand jury is still in the process of deciding whether to indict Wilson for shooting the unarmed teenager. Authorities have said Brown was behaving aggressively toward Wilson, who is white, and that the shooting was justified.
Brown's family and some witnesses say Brown was retreating and had his hands up in surrender when he was shot. The killing set off months of protests that sometimes turned violent in the majority-black town served by a mostly white police force.
Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Ferguson officials reportedly have advised that Wilson resign, but Wilson didn't agree with the timing. However, Wilson's attorneys have been in talks with Ferguson officials for the past two months about terms of the resignation.
Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said previously that Wilson could potentially still work as an officer in the department. "Legally speaking, if he is not indicted he can return to his job," Jackson said last week.
The city likely won't offer Wilson severance pay or any other compensation for his resignation, a source close to the matter told the Times.
Ferguson has been a hotbed of unrest since Brown's death, cooling off slightly over the past couple of months. But with the grand jury's decision imminent, tension in the city is palpable again. It's not clear when the grand jury will make its decision, but it's expected to be announced before the end of the month.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Monday, calling in the National Guard to assist local police in the event of protests.
"As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury's decision," Nixon said in a statement. "These additional resources will support law enforcement's efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech."
Gun sales in Ferguson have surged over the past month. One gun store owner told reporters that he sold more guns in October than in all of 2013. Some store owners in the Ferguson area have hired private military contractors to move guns, gold, and other valuable merchandise out of town before the grand jury's decision is announced.
Two men allegedly affiliated with the New Black Panther Party were indicted yesterday on weapons charges in federal court in St. Louis for allegedly making straw purchases of two handguns at the Cabela's sporting goods store. A police source told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the men "planned to obtain illegal weapons to do harm to law enforcement and the public."
The possibility of unrest has prompted Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., to call for peace in the volatile suburb, asking the town to come together to push for change. He said that "hurting others or destroying property is not the answer."
"My family and I are hurting, our whole region is hurting. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation," Brown Sr. said in a statement posted online by STL Forward, a community activist group. "No matter what the grand jury decides, I don't want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change."
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