A pending grand jury ruling has riveted the nation's attention on the town of Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager last summer.
The Aug. 9 shooting triggered weeks of protests and incidents of violence, and police around the St. Louis suburb are braced for more protests when the grand jury releases its decision.
Here is a profile of the players at the heart of this national drama:
Michael Brown The shooting of Michael Brown Jr. prompted a national outcry. He was 18 at the time of his death, and police officers in Ferguson released incident reports and store surveillance video that describe a young man similar to Brown as the suspect in a nearby convenience store robbery shortly before the confrontation with a police officer that left Brown dead with six bullet wounds. Some witnesses claimed that Brown had raised his hands over his head when he was shot.
Officer Darren Wilson Darren Wilson, 28, has been a police officer for six years, including four years in Ferguson. He did not have any prior disciplinary complaints. In an unusual step for a grand jury proceeding, Wilson testified before the panel, reportedly spending four hours detailing the moments that led to the shooting. The Ferguson police department said Wilson suffered a facial injury during his confrontation with Brown and that Wilson fired because Brown was advancing towards him.
Michael Brown's parents
Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, the slain teen's parents, have made numerous public appearances since the death of their son, including giving a speech in front of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva. They have urged both police and protesters to show restraint when the grand jury decision is released.
Michael Brown's family attorneys
Benjamin Crump and Anthony Gray have been representing Brown's parents in this case. Crump gained national attention when he represented the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen killed in Florida by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman in February 2012.
Gov. Jay Nixon
Democratic governor Jay Nixon, who is in his second term, has declared a state of emergency in advance of the grand jury verdict and has deployed the Missouri National Guard to help keep order if violent protests erupt.
Capt. Ron Johnson
During the mayhem of the August protests, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson earned praise for his role in easing the tensions by speaking to protesters and walking with them during their demonstrations. Part of his connection to the residents comes from the fact that he is their neighbor: Johnson and his family live in Florissant, the town adjacent to Ferguson.
Prosecutor Bob McCulloch
The man in charge of the grand jury decision is St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch. He rejected arguments that he should recuse himself because he came from a family of police officers, including his father who was killed in the line of duty by a black man. McCulloch promised to show the grand jury "absolutely everything" that was deemed relevant to the case. That move is in marked contrast from most grand jury cases where the prosecutor allows just a few witnesses to testify, effectively allowing the prosecutor to influence the outcome of the case. By opening the hearing to many witnesses, McCulloch is hoping to convince protesters that the grand jury heard all sides of the case.