CLAYTON, Missouri – St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch presented preliminary evidence Wednesday to a grand jury in the investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown, kicking off a process that could help ease tensions in this still uneasy community. But as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrives, the calls for McCulloch to step aside aren’t dying down.
At a morning rally outside McCulloch’s office in Clayton, a St. Louis suburb, protesters demanded that McCulloch recuse himself from the investigation in favor of the federal government.
“We need the Justice Department to come in and take over,” one protest leader shouted.
A Wilson supporter who held a small counter-protest was escorted away by local police after media and protesters crowded around her.
Ed Magee, a spokesman for McCulloch, said Tuesday that investigators have interviewed Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Brown on Aug. 9. Magee said the regular grand jury expires in early September, at which point a special grand jury, featuring the same 12 jurors, will be impaneled. He said it likely will take weeks or months to present the evidence to the grand jury, given the amount of material collected – a timeline that could only intensify frustrations among those demanding that Wilson be charged quickly.
Holder is expected to meet with Brown’s family and community leaders Wednesday in Ferguson. Already, FBI investigators have been on the ground in Ferguson, collecting information as part of a federal probe.
McCulloch, who is white, is distrusted by much of St. Louis County’s black community. They cite his extensive family ties to the police force, and his failure to bring charges in several high-profile cases in which white police have shot black citizens. And they were angered when McCulloch last week waded into the debate about policing operations in Ferguson, criticizing Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to put Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson in charge, calling the move an insult to county police. Johnson, who is black, has won widespread praise for his calm handling of the crisis.
The concerns about McCulloch have caused skirmishing between the prosecutor and Nixon. On Tuesday, the governor announced he would not ask McCulloch to recuse himself, saying that’s up to the prosecutor himself. But in a radio interview Wednesday morning, McCulloch said that when Nixon declared a state of emergency, he gained the power to remove the prosecutor.
McCulloch accused the governor of “Nixonian doublespeak,” and said Nixon should “man up” and either fully back him or remove him. He said he wouldn’t step down of his own volition.
“I have absolutely no intention of walking away from the duties and the responsibilities entrusted to me by the people of this community,” McCulloch said.