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Credibility concerns in Missouri shooting probe

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 11:31 p.m. CDT

FERGUSON, Mo. – The Missouri prosecutor overseeing an investigation into the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has deep family roots among police: his father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for St. Louis’ police department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect.

The connections now are being cited by some local residents and black leaders who question whether St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch can remain impartial. Brown, who was black, was fatally shot in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9 by local police officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

Grand jurors may begin hearing the case Wednesday, though it could be weeks before they decide whether to indict Wilson on state criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a separate civil rights investigation, which could also result in charges.

McCulloch’ spokesman, Ed Magee, said Monday the prosecutor plans to remain in charge of the case, despite mounting pressure to step aside amid violent clashes between police and protesters demanding that Wilson be charged.

McCulloch, a Democrat who has been in office since 1991, referenced his father’s death in his initial campaign. He survived a Democratic primary earlier this month and faces no Republican opposition in his re-election bid.

Protesters questioned his objectivity when grand jurors returned no charges against two officers who fired 21 bullets into a vehicle in June 2000, killing two black men during an attempted drug arrest.

But at the time, McCulloch said his father’s 1964 shooting by a black man at a public housing complex was an “incredibly irrelevant facet” as he sought to “make sure everybody gets a full and fair hearing.” McCulloch was 12 when his father was killed.

U.S. attorneys also reviewed the case and decided a year later not to bring any civil rights charges against the officers. In Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of St. Louis, many residents say they have long been harassed and intimidated by the police department, which has just three black officers on its 53-member force. They also have little confidence in McCulloch, who has been a prosecutor since 1991.

“He’s not going to prosecute the police officers,” said Robert Fowler, a 48-year-old electrician. “In the ghetto ... every police officer, he’s letting go free. They call it justifiable homicide.”

McCulloch has not responded to Associated Press requests for an interview. But he recently told television station KMOV: “I’ve been as fair and impartial and done as thorough of a job as we could.”

Police allege that Brown failed to move out of the center of the street when Wilson asked him to, and a scuffle ensued before he was shot. Witnesses say Brown had his hands up as Wilson fired multiple rounds.

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