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Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, near Ferguson, Missouri
Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, near Ferguson, Missouri Aug. 18, 2014.  Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Ferguson Probe Will Take Time

Aug 19, 2014

Despite the chaos on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., and in-fighting among local authorities over crowd control, the investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by police officer Darren Wilson is going smoothly, the U.S. Attorney on the case tells TIME.

FBI agents have successfully canvassed the area around the shooting scene for witnesses and are sharing what they’ve learned with St. Louis County investigators, said Richard G. Callahan, U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. An autopsy by a top U.S. military forensic examiner was completed on Monday and “physical evidence is being analyzed.”

There are no plans, however, to make details of the investigation public before the information is presented to a St. Louis County grand jury—a process that will take weeks or months. Callahan acknowledged the tension between the needs of investigators and the demands of the media and protesters.

“The modern 24-hour news cycle hampers law enforcement’s ability to conduct a successful investigation,” he said, because hasty or partial releases of information can taint the testimony of witnesses.

“While the lack of details surrounding the shooting may frustrate the media and breed suspicion among those already distrustful of the system, those closely guarded details give law enforcement the best yardsticks for measuring whether witnesses are truthful,” Callahan said. “Without those yardsticks, an investigation becomes more of a guessing game or popularity contest than a search for the truth.”

The U.S. Attorney’s comments to TIME came on the eve of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s scheduled visit to Missouri. Holder is expected to try to reassure the public that Brown’s death is getting a full and fair investigation. So far, the public has been treated to dueling accounts and partial disclosures, leading President Obama on Monday to warn of the dangers of drawing conclusions. "I have to be very careful about prejudging before the investigation is completed," Obama said.

And how might that information become public? Sources tell TIME that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch will likely present the information to the grand jury, which will decide whether to indict Wilson. If the officer is cleared of wrongdoing, results of the investigation will become public record under Missouri's Sunshine Law. If Wilson is charged with a crime, it’s possible that aspects of the case will remain secret until his trial.

On a parallel track, Justice Department officials are determining whether to press charges under federal civil rights laws.

Witness Tension Between Police and Protestors in Ferguson, Mo.

A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.
A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 11, 2014.Whitney Curtis—The New York Times/Redux
A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Ferguson St. Louis Missouri Police Shooting Riots Protests
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
TEAR GAS SHOT AT PROTESTORS
Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Police Shooting Missouri
APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri
Police Shooting Missouri
Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Demonstrators protest outside of Greater St. Marks Family Church in Ferguson, Missouri
Protesters take part in a peaceful demonstration against shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson speaks to protesters as he walks through a peaceful demonstration as communities continue to react to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Jon Lowenstein Teargas
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Ferguson Lowenstein
Police Shooting Missouri
Ferguson Lowenstein
Police Shooting Missouri
Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Protesters react to the effects of tear gas which was fired at demonstrators reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri
REUTERS PICTURE HIGHLIGHT
Police arrest two in front of McDonalds
US-CRIME-RACE-POLICE-SHOOTING
National Guard Called In As Unrest Continues In Ferguson
Violence between police and protestors erupts in Ferguson - again
Police fire tear gas in the direction of where bottles were thrown from crowds gathered near the QuikTrip on W. Florissant Avenue on Aug. 18, 2014.
Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant as they react to tear gas fired by police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of Brown, near Ferguson
Demonstrators protest against the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Aug. 19, 2014.
A police officer in riot gear detains a demonstrator protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson
Police officers in riot gear watch demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown from the side of a building in Ferguson
TOPSHOTS-US-CRIME-RACE-POLICE-SHOOTING
A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Brown in Ferguson
APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri
A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death o
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Whitney Curtis—The New York Times/Redux
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