At roughly 8:25 p.m. Central time Monday, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision in its investigation into the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson. The grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.
"The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction," said McCullough.
The U.S. Department of Justice could still bring criminal charges against the Ferguson Police Department, and the Civil Rights Division is also investigating the shooting.
Even before the decision was announced, some were preparing for violence. One 26-year-old woman reportedly even shot herself—accidentally, and fatally—with the firearm that she had said made her "ready for Ferguson." Police, bearing the heavy armor and that has been the subject of much scrutiny since the August 9 shooting and subsequent demonstrations, erected barricades around the justice center where the decision was delivered.
Earlier, protesters, anticipating the announcement, could only wait. Some tossed around a football, according to a report from the ground.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon met with ministers in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday afternoon. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar took counsel with the county prosecutor. Schools in Ferguson remain closed. The community—the nation—braced for an eruption.
Brown's family released a statement calling for four-and-a-half minutes of silence after the grand jury's decision was announced: a minute for every hour that Michael Brown's body lay on the ground.
"We have no information that would cause us to tell people not to do anything that they would normally do, go to work or go to school," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told reporters earlier in the day. "But if something does happen, then we are prepared to handle it."
The grand jury was not empaneled to decide the guilt or innocence of Wilson, who says that he shot Brown in self defense. The grand jury was only tasked with deciding whether criminal charges were to be brought against Wilson.
This case has been presented to the grand jury over the course of the last three months, much longer than is typical. An Associated Press report explains that this grand jury is unusual for many reasons, including the number of witnesses and the lack of a specific charge against Wilson.
Ongoing protests have kept all eyes on Ferguson since the August 9 shooting of Brown. Now, the conflict in Ferguson is a national issue. The national conversation is bound to follow tonight. It remains to be seen whether it will be met by a national crisis.