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New Lawsuit as Ferguson, Mo. Simmers

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (CN) - St. Louis County Police singled out a Turkish journalist for arrest during the Ferguson riots in August, the reporter claims in Federal Court.

Bilgin Sasmaz sued St. Louis County and a John Doe county police officer on Monday.

Also Monday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch issued a statement to try to calm nerves as the area awaits word on whether a police officer will be indicted for the fatal shooting that set off the weeks of protests.

In his lawsuit, Sasmaz says he was covering the protests during their most violent times for the Turkish Anadolu Agency when he was arrested on Aug. 19.

Sasmaz says he was photographing former St. Ann police Officer Ray Albers, who was pointing his weapon at protesters and yelling that he was going to kill them.

Sasmaz claims that Officer Doe then threw him to the pavement, handcuffed and arrested him, though Sasmaz repeatedly said, "Press, Press" to identify himself as a member of the media.

Sasmaz claims his credentials were ripped from his neck, his camera was damaged and image files were confiscated. He says he was singled out due to his Middle Eastern descent and that he was no closer to the protesters than several Caucasian media covering the protest.

"Mr. Sasmaz should not have been treated like a criminal when he was only doing his job of reporting the unrest in Ferguson," said Sasmaz's attorney Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "Democracy suffers whenever the police hinder our news gatherers."

Albers resigned from the St. Ann Police Department after the incident, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Sasmaz seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations and wants St. Louis County ordered to develop training programs for its police officers on citizens' constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, rumors have been swirling about whether and when the grand jury will indict or decline to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, whose fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 set off the weeks of protests.

In response, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch issued the following statement Monday:

"As recently as November 4, 2014 I stated that the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown case was still hearing evidence and had not made a decision. I also stated that I did not expect the Grand Jury to complete its work and make a decision until mid to late November. That timeframe has not changed.

"I realize that this is a much anticipated decision and that there is daily, if not hourly, speculation about when the announcement will be released.

"Once the work of the Grand Jury is completed and they have made a determination, my Office will advise the public and the media when their decision will be released. Until that notice comes directly from this Office, ANY AND ALL claims of an announcement date or time from any source, especially social media, are rank speculation and should be ignored."

The grand jury has been hearing evidence on whether to charge Wilson criminally for the shooting.

The pending decision has many in the St. Louis area on edge. Many fear the announcement may set off another round of violence.

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