Ferguson remains on edge ahead of grand jury report

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Prosecutors are preparing a news conference to announce the decision of the grand jury weighing whether to bring charges against a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, officials said on Friday.

The grand jury was still in session on Friday and no date or time for the decision announcement was known, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said. Officials have said a decision by the grand jury is expected by the end of the month.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged police to show restraint in dealing with any protests that may follow the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, in the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Legal experts say the grand jury can consider charges ranging from first-degree murder to criminal negligence.

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Groups from across the country have said they would take to the streets again in large numbers if charges were not brought, prompting local police to draw up contingency plans for possible fresh violence.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops to back up local police in anticipation of protests.

As tensions simmered in the St. Louis suburb over a case that has become a flashpoint for U.S. race relations, police in riot gear arrested three people in overnight protests that led to scuffles, St. Louis County police said. Police said they doused one demonstrator with pepper spay for resisting arrest.

Lawyers for Brown’s family say he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson’s supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.

Holder said the Justice Department was providing new guidance to law enforcement authorities about how to approach maintaining public safety while safeguarding the free speech rights of protesters. – Tribune wire reports