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Missouri governor activates National Guard

David A. Lieb
Associated Press

Jefferson City — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard ahead of a grand jury decision about whether a white police officer will be charged in the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Nixon said the National Guard would assist state and local police in case the grand jury’s decision leads to a resurgence of the civil unrest that occurred in the days immediately after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

“All people in the St. Louis region deserve to feel safe in their communities and to make their voices heard without fear of violence or intimidation,” Nixon said.

There is no specific date for a grand jury decision to be revealed, and Nixon gave no indication that an announcement is imminent. But St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said that he expects the grand jury to reach a decision in mid-to-late November.

Before the shooting, Wilson spotted Brown and a friend walking in the middle of a street and told them to stop, but they did not. According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report based on sources the newspaper did not identify, Wilson has told authorities he then realized Brown matched the description of a suspect in a theft minutes earlier at a convenience store. Wilson backed up his police vehicle and some sort of confrontation occurred before Brown was fatally shot. He was unarmed and some witnesses have said he had his hands up when he was killed.

Brown’s shooting stirred long-simmering racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb, where two-thirds of the residents are black but the police force is almost entirely white. Rioting and looting a day after the shooting led police to respond to subsequent protests with a heavily armored presence that was widely criticized for continuing to escalate tensions. At times, protesters lobbed rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, who fired tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse crowds.

Nixon also declared a state of emergency in August and put the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of a unified local police command.

This time, Nixon said the St. Louis County Police Department would be in charge of a unified police command in Ferguson. The St. Louis city police and Missouri State Highway Patrol will help.

The governor did not indicate how many National Guard troops would be mobilized, instead leaving it to the state adjutant general to determine.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said Monday that he supports Nixon’s decision to activate the Guard.