Missouri’s governor has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard ahead of a grand jury’s decision on whether to charge a white police officer for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager.
Jay Nixon on Monday signed an executive order activating the state’s National Guard to assist state and local police in Ferguson as needed.
The St Louis suburb has been on edge for months while a grand jury has heard evidence in the 9 August shooting to death of Michael Brown.
Missouri officials have urged residents not to riot if a decision is made not to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
Gov Nixon said last week his priority is to keep residents and businesses safe.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” he said in a statement announcing the activation of Guard troops.
“These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech.”
St Louis Mayor Francis Slay said on Monday the Guard “will be used in a secondary role” and could potentially be stationed at places such as shopping centres and government buildings.
There was no indication that a decision from the grand jury was imminent.
The St Louis County prosecutor said he expects jurors to reach a decision in mid-to-late November.
Several business owners have boarded up their shops amid fears there could be a repeat of the sometimes violent protests that erupted in the wake of Mr Brown’s death.
Mr Brown was shot at least six times, twice in the head, on the street where he lived, according to pathologist Dr Michael Baden, who was hired by the Brown family.
The official autopsy found Mr Brown was shot at close range and at least once in the head, according to a copy obtained by the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.
Varying accounts of the shooting have emerged from witnesses; some described a struggle between the pair, while others said the teenager had put his hands up.
Several forensic experts, including Dr Baden, testified before the 12-member grand jury.
Officer Wilson also testified on his own behalf.
Among the possible charges the jury can recommend is the most serious charge of first-degree murder, which is punishable by either life in prison or the death penalty.
At the lower end is second-degree involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of four years in prison.The US Justice Department, which is conducting a separate investigation, has not said when its work will be completed.