FERGUSON: The father of a black teen whose fatal shooting in a US town sparked weeks of unrest called for calm as a decision loomed Friday about possible charges against the white police officer involved.
A grand jury in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson is looking at the racially charged shooting, in which Officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The August 9 death led to weeks of violence in the Missouri town, and the governor this week declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard ahead of a decision on charges.
In a one-minute video, Brown’s father delivered a somber plea for a peaceful response to the grand jury decision.
“Thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation, but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” Michael Brown Sr. said on a local government website.
“No matter what the grand jury decides, I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain,” he added.
In the United States, grand juries meet in secret to review some cases before deciding whether criminal charges should be brought.
The jury could indict Wilson, meaning he could face trial, or determine there is no case for him to answer.
Authorities have previously said they expect the grand jury decision any time between mid- to late-November.
On Friday, St. Louis County prosecutors indicated an announcement may be imminent.
“We are in the process of setting up the press conference to announce the decision on the Darren Wilson case,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“The date, time and location hasn’t been decided as of yet. The grand jury is still in session.”
In another sign, schools in the area announced they would be closed Monday and Tuesday next week, “due to the potential Ferguson unrest.”
US Attorney General Eric Holder released a video Friday urging law enforcement officials to show restraint if people take to the streets.
“Over the past few months we have seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias and pervasive community distrust,” Holder said.
“It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms,” he said.
“This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times, particularly in moments of heightened community tension.”
The shooting led to weeks of violence in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000, which has an African-American majority and an overwhelmingly white police department and town government.
Brown, a high-school graduate looking forward to attending technical college, was shot at least six times by Wilson and his body left in the street.
Wilson has reportedly told the grand jury he acted in self-defense after tussling with the youth. Others claim Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot.
Some demonstrators complained that police used undue force during peaceful protests and there was widespread criticism of the military-style equipment and uniforms deployed by local officers.
In his video plea, Brown’s father appealed to locals to come together.
“We’re stronger united. Continue to lift your voices with us and let’s work together to heal, to create lasting change for all people regardless of race,” he said.