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Key figures in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting

Monday - 8/18/2014, 9:56pm  ET

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Brown family shows Michael Brown. Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed in a confrontation with police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Brown suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may have occurred when he put his hands up or when his back was turned to the shooter, "but we don't know," a pathologist hired by the teen's family said Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Brown Family, File)

JIM SALTER
Associated

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- A look at the key figures in the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Aug. 9 -- a death that has stoked days of violent unrest north of St. Louis.

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MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown graduated from Normandy High School this spring and was preparing to attend Vatterott College, where he planned to study to become a heating and air conditioning technician. Friends say he eventually wanted to go into business for himself.

Relatives and friends described Brown, who grew up in a tough neighborhood, as a quiet, gentle giant who stood around 6-foot-3 and weighed nearly 300 pounds.

Police said Brown was a suspect in the "strong-arm" robbery of a convenience store moments before he was killed. A family attorney said Brown may have made mistakes, but didn't deserve to be shot. Others doubted Brown's involvement in the crime.

"He was just looking forward to getting on with his life," said his grandmother, Desuirea Harris. "He was on his way."

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OFFICER DARREN WILSON

Some of the descriptions of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson are eerily similar to descriptions of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Wilson shot to death on Aug. 9. Both men have been described as gentle and quiet. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Wilson had no previous complaints against him and a strong record in the career he began six years ago.

"He's devastated," the chief said after naming Wilson as the shooter on Friday. "He never intended for this to happen. He is, and has been, an excellent police officer."

Wilson began his career in nearby Jennings. He moved to the Ferguson job four years ago. Since the shooting, his whereabouts are unclear. Neighbors who live near his tidy brick home in another area of suburban St. Louis say they haven't seen him for several days.

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FERGUSON POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON

Thomas Jackson was a police veteran long before he came to Ferguson. He spent more than 30 years with the St. Louis County Police Department, at one point serving as commander of the Drug Task Force. Before that he was a SWAT team supervisor, undercover detective and hostage negotiator.

He heads a department with 53 officers, only three of whom are black in a town where nearly 70 percent of the 21,000 residents are African-American.

"I'm constantly trying to recruit African-Americans and other minorities," he has said. "But it's an uphill battle. The minority makeup of this police department is not where I want it to be."

Some of Jackson's actions in the wake of the shooting have drawn criticism, including his decision to announce that Brown was a suspect in the convenience mart robbery, a move that stirred anger in the black community in Ferguson.

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR BOB MCCULLOCH

Bob McCulloch was 12 years old when his father, 37-year-old police officer Paul McCulloch, was shot and killed by a black suspect in 1964.

Since his election in 1991, McCulloch has been the prosecuting attorney in St. Louis County, a Democrat who has earned a reputation for being tough on crime.

Some people, including St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, believe McCulloch cannot be objective in deciding whether charges should be filed against officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. They wonder if losing his father in such tragic circumstances creates a built-in bias. Dooley is among those who have urged that a special prosecutor be appointed and McCulloch removed. McCulloch has no plans to give up the case.

"We will be proceeding with our duties," McCulloch spokesman Ed Magee said last week.

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MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL CAPT. RON JOHNSON

Capt. Ron Johnson climbed during his 27-year career from a patrolman to the chief of the 11-county Missouri State Highway Patrol division that includes the most populated region of the state -- St. Louis and its suburbs. Now, he's something of a celebrity.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday appointed Johnson to take command of security in Ferguson. That decision came after complaints about heavy-handedness in police handling of looting and protesters earlier in the week, when St. Louis County police were in charge.

Johnson's calm but commanding presence has drawn high praise from many observers. When Johnson, who is black, walks down the streets of Ferguson with protesters, many shake his hand or pose for photos with him. He has carried himself with a disarming empathy, reminding locals of his Ferguson roots and suggesting that he, too, has lessons to learn from the case.

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