ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis/AP) — St. Louis County police said they have spent around $100,000 stocking up on riot gear and other items they may need if protests turn violent after prosecutors announce whether a Ferguson officer will face criminal charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
A state grand jury has been meeting since shortly after Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown was unarmed and some witnesses said he was trying to surrender. Wilson’s attorneys have repeatedly declined comment.
St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said the grand jury decision is expected in mid- to late November.
McCulloch released the following information Monday afternoon:
“As recently as November 4, 2014 I stated that the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown case was still hearing evidence and had not made a decision. I also stated that I did not expect the Grand Jury to complete its work and make a decision until mid to late November. That timeframe has not changed.
I realize that this is a much anticipated decision and that there is daily, if not hourly, speculation about when the announcement will be released.
Once the work of the Grand Jury is completed and they have made a determination, my Office will advise the public and the media when their decision will be released. Until that notice comes directly from this Office, ANY AND ALL claims of an announcement date or time from any source, especially social media, are rank speculation and should be ignored.”
His spokesman, Ed Magee, said Monday that the decision will come no earlier than Saturday, but the exact date is not yet known.
Businesses, schools and government offices have been gearing up for the announcement amid fear that protests could become violent if the grand jury decides not to recommend charging Wilson.
St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman said that since August, the county has spent $65,500 for new riot gear, such as helmets, shields and batons. The department has spent another $35,000 to replenish the supply of items including pepper spray, smoke canisters and rubber bullets. Police faced criticism in the early days of the sometimes violent protests that followed the shooting for responding with riot equipment and armored vehicles.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar has said police won’t impede peaceful dissent after the grand jury decision, but will do what is necessary to protect the safety of protesters, police and the public.
Several school districts have asked the prosecutor’s office to make the announcement on a weekend, when classes are not in session. Many have also kept parents advised of preparations.
“We’ve reached out to parents, first and foremost, to reassure them that student safety will always be our top priority,” said Jana Shortt, spokeswoman for the 11,300-student Ferguson-Florissant School District. She declined to offer specifics.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told CBS News he has been meeting with students, gang members and ministers about what might happen following the grand jury decision that is expected to come down this month.
“There’s a lot of fear. A lot of people are afraid of what could happen,” Johnson explained. “In the end, this is gonna be the community we have to live in.”
Ronardo Ward, 33, is one of those hoping to maintain peace in Ferguson if Wilson isn’t indicted.
“We are getting prepared for war,” Ward told CBS News. “And that’s just crazy.”
Michael Johnson, 42, believes many young people will rail against the “system.”
“There’s gonna be a lot of angry young people that’s pretty much not gonna listen to the system anymore,” Michael Johnson said. “Why should they?”
Protests have been going on for months following Brown’s death in August.
Last week, civil rights activists asked for advance notice before the announcement, saying they can help prevent violence if they have 48 hours to prepare for protests.
Magee said a decision hasn’t been made about how much notice will be given, and to whom.
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