Two men who were taken into custody Friday in Missouri on gun charges are now being investigated on suspicion of trying to purchase explosives to detonate during protests in Ferguson, officials told NBC News’ Pete Williams on Friday night.
The arrests come as Ferguson anxiously awaits a grand jury decision in the police shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
According to a federal indictment, the two suspects, Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, made false statements while purchasing two guns, Hi-Point ACP pistols, at a Cabela’s sporting good store in Hazelwood, Mo. – about five miles from Ferguson – sometime between Nov. 1 and Nov. 13. Two officials told NBC News that the men claimed to be associated with the New Black Panther Party and that they also wanted to acquire bombs.
As of now, the duo only face firearms charges, but other charges are pending, the officials said. Another source told NBC News that the men don’t seem to represent a big threat and there has been no evidence that they are part of a larger plot.
Meanwhile, authorities are preparing for new rounds of protests as a grand jury decision on whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, 18, on Aug. 9, is expected any day.
Separately, three men were arrested on Friday night in Ferguson after approximately 160 demonstrators blocked traffic on West Florissant and South Florissant streets, according to the St. Louis County Police Department. The remainder of the protesters voluntarily left the scene and no further incidents were reported.
Earlier this week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency as a precaution in addition to activating the state National Guard. President Obama on Friday urged for calm on Friday, arguing the grand jury decision cannot be an “excuse for violence.”
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.