According to a spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, the grand jury considering whether to indict officer Darren Wilson on charges relating to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, was still meeting as of Friday morning, although McCulloch’s office put the media on notice to expect an announcement in the near future.
And in a sting operation, the FBI has told some media outlets that they have arrested two members of the New Black Panther Party on charges related to a bomb plot connected to the Ferguson protests. Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, recently indicted on charges of trying to purchase handguns under false pretenses, were being charged with federal firearms offenses for trying to buy material for pipe bombs they planned on setting off during protests.
Against this backdrop of heightened tensions, according to a law enforcement source, two men described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party, were arrested in the St. Louis area in an FBI sting operation.
As initially reported by CBS News, the men were suspected of acquiring explosives for pipe bombs that they planned to set off during protests in Ferguson, according to the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
The official said the two men are the same pair named in a newly unsealed federal indictment returned on Nov. 19 charging Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis with purchasing two pistols from a firearms dealer under false pretenses.
Both men were arraigned on Friday in federal court, the law enforcement source said.
The FBI and other federal agencies were reported to have stepped up their presence in the St. Louis area in recent days in anticipation of renewed protests after the grand jury’s decision in the Brown case is made known.
An FBI official in St. Louis declined to comment except to say that the two men named in the indictment had been arrested. Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for eastern Missouri were not immediately available for comment.
In 2012, the New Black Panther Party offered a bounty on George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin.
The New Black Panther Party’s most notorious act was intimidating voters at a precinct in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential election. For no announced reason, Attorney General Eric Holder dropped those charges in 2009.
In Ferguson, there have been pleas for peace and warnings of violence:
Calls for peace and restraint emanated from several quarters, including President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and civil-rights leaders and business owners.
The most emotional appeal came from Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr.
“Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” Brown said in the video released by the group STL Forward. “No matter what the grand jury decides, I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”
There have been warnings of violence following the grand jury decision from the St. Louis police and the FBI. The intimidation factor has been incredible. How can the grand jury members possibly ignore all of these predictions and threats of violence and reach a fair and just decision?
The answer is, they can’t. Even so-called “peaceful” protestors have threatened violence. One group, the RbG Black Rebels, hase been especially active in attempts at intimidation:
Police are wary of the intentions of another local group called the RbG Black Rebels.
Its recent Twitter messages have included a video on making a bomb from household components, stated plans to “make a few fires to stay warm” — but without the need for firewood — and a recommendation that protesters pack “side arms.”
And the group has offered a $5,000 reward for information on Wilson’s location and $1,000 for that of a “close family” member.
The Black Rebels leader, Zulu Gaddafi, said the reward offers are serious.
“We don’t make any public threats,” Gaddafi said in an emailed statement. “We believe that the public has the right to know when there’s a killer cop staying next door to them.”
A St. Louis County police spokesman characterized the tweets as “threats we are taking seriously.”
Gaddafi said his organization numbers 50 local members.
Asked how they will react if Wilson is not charged with a crime, Gaddafi stated: “I’ll leave that to your imagination.”
And you can bet the imaginations of the grand jury are working overtime.