By RYAN GORMAN
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has paved the way for the National Guard to return to Ferguson.
Nixon announced Monday via an executive order the declaration of a state of emergency in Ferguson and St. Louis County. The announcement was made as a grand jury deliberates over whether to indict a white police officer for shooting dead an unarmed black teen.
Unrest has grown as the grand jury weighs whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the August 9 murder of Michael Brown, which the officer has insisted was in self-defense.
Officials have expressed concern that protests could again turn violent if a decision is not reached soon, no matter the grand jury's decision, and Nixon earlier Monday activated the National Guard to standby in the event things take a turn for the worse in Ferguson, according to KSDK.
"St. Louis County authorities could soon announce the findings of their independent criminal investigations," Nixon said in the announcement. "Regardless of the outcomes of the federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest."
Nixon's declaration calls for both the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to work in tandem to keep the peace in Ferguson.
The "Unified Command" will secure the region should protest turn violent, and additional resources will be made available if deemed necessary.
County police, previously seen by protestors and the media as escalating the violence in Ferguson, have been put in charge of security for Ferguson.
More importantly, though, declaring a state of emergency allows Nixon to call in the National Guard at his discretion. Use of the National Guard has been discussed in recent weeks.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay admitted during a Monday afternoon press conference that he did not know how many troops could be deployed, but insisted they would not be on the front lines of any protests.
Slay also said he was not aware of exactly how or when the grand jury's determination would be announced.
The state of emergency expires December 17, according to the executive order, but can be extended at any time.
The grand jury tasked with deciding whether to indict Wilson has been hearing testimony and viewing evidence for weeks. A decision is expected as soon as Monday.
Growing impatience with the legal process led several protestors to mark the 100-days since Michael Brown's death on Sunday by lying in chalk outlines on the cold, snow-covered streets of St. Louis.
Several reports have suggested local schools will be notified the grand jury has reached a decision before it is announced in court.