Steady Fears Remain in Ferguson Over Grand Jury’s Anticipated Ruling on Police Shooting

The Dellwood Lounge, off West Florissant Avenue, whose owners boarded the windows when they heard that insurance would not cover the cost of replacing broken glass. (Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)
The Dellwood Lounge, off West Florissant Avenue, whose owners boarded the windows when they heard that insurance would not cover the cost of replacing broken glass. (Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)

Walk down West Florissant Avenue, and the scars of the summer are still there. The door and display window of a beauty supply store remain covered with plywood; a glued-up poster, “Beauty Town Is Back,” is the one hopeful sign of the life inside. A cellphone store, too, still has the plywood up from when riots and confrontations with the police shook this neighborhood. And the Family of Faith Baptist Church uses its billboard to proclaim, “Join us as we pray for peace.”

But few are expecting peace as this St. Louis suburb prepares for a grand jury decision, expected in the next few weeks, on whether to indict the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in August, inciting months of protests and putting Ferguson at the center of a national debate over the police and race.

Here, where heavily fortified police officers faced the demonstrators and the nights sometimes turned violent, even those shopkeepers who put in new windows are boarding up again.

“I hate this,” said Dan McMullen, the president of Solo Insurance Services, as he sat behind his desk on Thursday. During the course of a 20-minute conversation, his phone did not ring; no customers walked through the door. “Business is terrible,” he lamented. “The customers don’t want to come here anymore. We all know the grand jury is going to come back in the next couple of weeks, and everyone knows there won’t be an indictment. This time around will be a lot more violent.”

Mr. McMullen, a former police officer who is white, opened his desk drawer to show the loaded revolver that he keeps there.

“I don’t anticipate having to use it,” he said, but added that he was prepared to do so if necessary to defend his business.

All around this small suburb, people are bracing for the grand jury’s decision, with the wide expectation that the officer, Darren Wilson, will not face serious charges for shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown six times.

Government officials have said that forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on Officer Wilson’s gun, giving credence to the officer’s account that at one point he was pinned in his vehicle and engaged in a struggle over his gun with Mr. Brown. He told investigators that he had feared for his life, and police officers are typically given wide latitude to defend themselves if they feel their safety is threatened.

Nor are civil rights charges expected. Federal officials have said that while their investigation is continuing, the evidence so far does not support such a case against Officer Wilson.

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