‘There are no police’: Ferguson store owners guard businesses; cite lack of police response
Looters in Ferguson, Mo., were met with little police resistance Friday night and store owners say they were forced to protect their businesses with their own guns, Fox2Now.com reported.
“I think the first message is to remind all law enforcement that they are hired to serve and protect and if they’re going to sit back and watch looting, they’re not serving us; they’re not protecting us,” Pastor Robert White told the station.
A reporter from the station tweeted that police cars were seen driving past some of the stores being looted and did not respond. It rained in Ferguson Friday night and protesters could be seen outside until 6 a.m.
Two store owners, standing outside their business holding guns, told Fox2Now.com that when they called 911, they were sent from one police agency to another, and got no response.
One of the owners, with a large black gun resting on his shoulder, told the station that police were lined up blocks from the looting, and did not engage looters making off with large boxes from these stores.
“There’s no police,” he said. “We trusted the police to keep it peaceful; they didn’t do their job.”
Just before midnight, some in what had been a large and rowdy but mostly well-behaved crowd broke in a convenience store that police accused 18-year-old Michael Brown of robbing minutes before he was fatally shot by an officer, and began looting it, said Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson.
Some in the crowd of about 200 began throwing rocks and other objects at police, Johnson said. One officer was hurt but details on the injury were not immediately available.
Johnson said police backed off to try and ease the tension. No arrests were made.
“We had to evaluate the security of the officers there and also the rioters,” Johnson said. “We just felt it was better to move back.”
Meanwhile, peaceful protesters yelled at the aggressors to stop what they were doing. About a dozen people eventually blocked off the front of the convenience store to help protect it.
Friday marked a resurgence of unrest that had momentarily abated after Gov. Jay Nixon turned oversight of the protests over to the Missouri Highway Patrol Thursday. Gone were the police in riot gear and armored vehicles, replaced by the new patrol commander who personally walked through the streets with demonstrates.
The violence erupted after a day that included authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot Brown on Aug. 9. At the same news conference in which officer Darren Wilson was named, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released documents alleging that Brown stole a $48.99 box of cigars from the convenience store, then strong-armed a man on his way out.
The released surveillance video shows a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store’s door. A police report alleges Brown grabbed the man who had come from behind the store counter and “forcefully pushed him back” into a display rack.
Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic,” Jackson said Friday. Police said they found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Brown’s body.
Wilson is a six-year police veteran — two in neighboring Jennings and four in Ferguson — and had no previous complaints filed against him, Jackson said, describing him as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.”
Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it could be weeks before the investigation wraps up.
Jackson’s decision to spell out the allegations that Brown committed the robbery, and his releasing of surveillance video, angered attorneys for Brown’s family and many in the community, including U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay.
Earlier Friday night, the Democratic congressman took a bullhorn and told protesters, “They have attempted to taint the investigation. They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today.”
Another family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said police “are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style” killing, said Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley on Friday asked Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to take over the case, saying he did not believe McCulloch could be objective. Koster said Missouri law does not allow it unless McCulloch opts out. McCulloch spokesman Ed Magee said McCulloch has no plans to surrender the case.
Also Friday, the Justice Department confirmed in a statement that FBI agents had conducted several interviews with witnesses as part of a civil-rights investigation into Brown’s death. In the days ahead, the agents planned to canvass the neighborhood where the shooting happened, seeking more information, the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report