Peace in Indianapolis expected in wake of Ferguson grand jury verdict

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INDIANAPOLIS, In (November 23, 2014) -- Law enforcement and faith-based community sources told FOX59 they expect no widespread protests in Indianapolis once a grand jury verdict in a fatal Ferguson, Mo., police action shooting is reached.

A grand jury is weighing the evidence against Darren Wilson, a police officer in suburban St. Louis, who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9.

The shooting of the unarmed theft suspect was followed by more than a week of violent riots and daily demonstrations as protesters called for Wilson's arrest.

In the aftermath of the urban unrest, Ferguson church leaders reached out to their Indianapolis brother who has had experience in calming tense streets and large crowds.

"If the verdict does not indict Officer Wilson, then they will be prepared to kind of be the buffer between the police and protesters," said Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition. "We have a lot more confidence in them because they have been meeting with city officials, with the law enforcement community and I really think they have a plan in place now to deal with the protesters particularly if the protest gets out of hand."

Harrison and members of his group journeyed to Ferguson in October to advise the community on crowd observation, community outreach and police cooperation.

"They're going to be a little more proactive in not just kind of be the buffer but have people in the crowd to try to identify people who may be trying to agitate and create a scenario where we may see some violence," said Harrison. "We don't always do it by ourselves but we enlist people in the crowd to help us keep the calm and peace because we want them to be able to express themselves but do it in a way that doesn't create chaos and that's what we share with the community leaders and pastors."

Harrison said any discussion of an Indianapolis reaction to the Ferguson grand jury verdict has been confined to social media and does not appear to be organized.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman told FOX59 that the unusual decision by the St. Louis County prosecutor to publicize the grand jury process indicates a potential weakness in the criminal case against the police officer.

"He is going to open that up and it sounds to me like there’s a few wrinkles in this case that he’s very concerned that this will not result in charges and he’s preparing the ground for that," said Newman, who supervised grand juries during his eight years as Marion County's prosecutor. "What the prosecutor is trying to do here is create trust in the grand jury that has been lost over the years."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch is presenting his entire case to grand jurors, not just enough evidence to secure an indictment.

McCulloch has also indicated that if the jurors do not return a criminal charge against Wilson, he will release transcripts and audio tapes of the proceedings so that the public will be able to review the same evidence and testimony as the grand jury.

"This prosecutor wants to make sure that people see that he’s presenting evidence on both sides of the issue, which he does not have to do under the law, and he’s not going to keep it a secret," said Newman.

Wilson testified before the jurors in mid-September even though, as target of the investigation, he was not required to do so.

"The fact that he’s testifying tells me that his lawyer is telling him that he has a chance at being found no true bill or being released," said Newman.

The U.S. Supreme Court provides great latitude for officers, and citizens, to defend themselves in fatal shootings.

"The standard is that he has to believe that he is in the threat of imminent use of deadly force or serious bodily injury him or somebody else," said Newman.