The white officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager does not expect to face criminal charges from a Missouri grand jury investigating the case, a police union has said.
Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St Louis Police Officers’ Association, said he met Darren Wilson, who has remained secluded from the public eye since the August 9 shooting in Ferguson that sparked violent protests.
The killing also reignited a debate over how police treat young black men as it drew attention to racial tensions in the United States.
Offficer Wilson, who was put on paid administrative leave following the shooting, had been under a lot of pressure and stress but seemed confident in the outcome of the grand jury investigation, Mr Roorda said.
“It’s fair to say that neither he nor his defence team expect an indictment,” he added.
The 12-strong St Louis County grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case as the panel considers whether to indict Offficer Wilson, who could face varying degrees of charges.
A decision could come soon, though authorities have not publicised any specific date for an announcement.
Mr Roorda said St Louis city police were told they were switching to 12-hour shifts starting tomorrow – a preparation for a potential surge in protests. But St Louis County Police Department spokesman Brian Schellman said it had not yet been decided.
For weeks, local and state police have been preparing for a grand jury announcement in anticipation that it will result in renewed protests. Earlier this week Missouri governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and mobilised the National Guard to help with security.
Authorities have said Offficer Wilson shot Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed, following physical confrontation that occurred after the policeman told him and a friend to stop walking down the centre of a street in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis.
Offficer Wilson told authorities that the shooting happened after Mr Brown struggled with him for his gun, according to press reports citing unnamed sources. But some witnesses have said Mr Brown had his arms raised as if to surrender when the fatal shot was fired.
The officer’s lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, who also attended yesterday’s meeting, said there was no specific discussion of expectations.
“We have absolutely no idea – no more than anyone else – what may or may not happen,” he said. “The only expectation that we would have is that the grand jury would be thorough and fair.”
If he is indicted, Officer Wilson will immediately turn himself in to authorities, Mr Bruntrager said.
Riots and looting flared a day after the shooting and protesters filled the streets for weeks. Police responded by firing tear gas and smoke canisters into crowds of demonstrators after some people threw rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Mr Brown’s family, said he had no insight into the timing of the grand jury’s decision but expected to be notified before any public announcement.
Officer Wilson has incurred significant legal, medical and relocation expenses and a police charity has raised nearly US $500,000 dollars for him, Mr Roorda said.