Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, may return to work on the force if the grand jury hearing evidence in the case does not indict him, Police Chief Tom Jackson told NBC affiliate KSDK.
Wilson has been on paid administrative leave from the department since the incident on Aug. 9. Jackson told KSDK that he wasn’t sure whether Wilson would want to return to the force, adding that the two had not been in in contact. But if the officer was ultimately indicted, then his job would likely be on the line, Jackson said.
Jackson’s own future leading the Ferguson Police Department has appeared uncertain in recent weeks, with sources telling msnbc that the department could see a major shakeup. The changes could include the St. Louis County police taking over the police force in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. The embattled official has said he intends to stay on as police chief. “Right now I have a job to do and I’m going to stay here and get the job done,” Jackson told msnbc in an interview last month.
The Department of Justice is conducting a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. Attorney General Eric Holder, who plans to step down as the nation’s top law enforcement official when his successor, Loretta Lynch, is confirmed by the Senate, has endorsed plans for change in Ferguson. “I think it’s pretty clear that the need for wholesale change in that department is appropriate,” Holder told The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart in an interview in late October.
Police and witnesses have said Brown and Wilson engaged in a physical struggle through the window of the officer’s SUV shortly before the teen’s death. Law enforcement officials say Brown attempted to take Wilson’s gun when the police officer fired the first shot. A half-dozen eye-witnesses have said publicly that they saw Brown flee from the vehicle as Wilson open fire with the fatal shots landing as the teen stopped, turned to the officer and raised his arms in surrender. But a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told NBC News’ Pete Williams that Wilson said he feared for his safety when the teen turned and charged back toward him after running from the vehicle.
The grand jury is expected to reach a decision as early as this weekend on whether to charge Wilson with a crime in the shooting death.