Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says 2,200 members of the National Guard will be in the Ferguson area on Tuesday, triple the number on the streets the night before when businesses were looted and destroyed.
Smoke billowed from burned-out buildings and sidewalks were strewn with broken glass Tuesday morning after violence erupted over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the killing of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Monday night’s protests were far more destructive than any of the others that followed Brown’s Aug. 9 death, with more than a dozen businesses badly damaged or destroyed.
The victim's friend: Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson was with him at the time of the shooting. He has said in media interviews that he and Brown were walking on the street, en route to Johnson’s house from a local store, when an officer drove up and told them to get off the sidewalk. The two stayed in the street, and the officer backed up his car and hit Brown while opening the door. The officer grabbed Brown, pulled his gun and fired, delivering more fatal shots when the two fled the car.
The officer: Wilson told the grand jury that he found Brown and his friend walking in the street and, when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive. He saw Brown had a handful of cigars in his pocket and related it to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store. Wilson says he backed up his vehicle in front of Brown and his friend, opening the door only for Brown to slam it shut. Wilson says he then pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson says he drew his gun, threatened Brown to get back, and then Brown grabbed the gun, saying"You are too much of a pussy to shoot me." He said Brown grabbed the gun and fled after shots were fired inside the vehicle. Wilson says he gave chase, and at some point, Brown turned around to face the officer.
The autopsies: A private autopsy, conducted for the Brown family in August, found Brown had been shot at least six times and that his head was “in a downward position” when he died. On Oct. 22, the report of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown was leaked to the media. It suggested Brown had a gunshot wound to the hand from close range.
Backlash: Town 'out of control'
Firefighters doused the blackened remains of some businesses Tuesday morning and at least one building was still ablaze. Some Ferguson stores that weren’t burned had smashed display windows, but the streets of the St. Louis suburb were mostly clear.
There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing, St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman said. There were 21 arrests in St. Louis, where protesters broke some store windows along South Grand Avenue, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.
Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said that unless his agency could bring in 10,000 officers, “I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”
Wilson's lawyers hail jury's decision
Nov. 16 marked the 100th day since Mr. Brown's death, which has brought together a broad coalition of protest groups in Ferguson, including critics of racial profiling and the increasingly military tactics and equipment of U.S. police forces.
Race in America
- Donna Bryson argues that an honest exchange about race may be enough to give meaning to Brown's death.
- Read Paul Koring's report in August on the old racial wounds reopened by the Ferguson clashes
- The American Spring? Read Omar El Akkad's analysis from August of how the Ferguson conflict compares with other global struggles (for subscribers)
Militarization of police?
The grand jury’s decision means that officer Darren Wilson, who is white, will not face any state criminal charges for killing Brown, whose death inflamed deep racial tensions between many black Americans and police.
Wilson’s lawyers issued a statement Tuesday in which they say the 28-year-old officer and his family greatly appreciate the continued support of those who have stood by him. Wilson’s lawyers say they believe the jury’s decision was right and note that officers often must make “split-second and difficult decisions.”
Prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, a defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous accounts from witnesses. When asked by a reporter whether any of the accounts amount to perjury, he said, “I think they truly believe that’s what they saw, but they didn’t.”
The prosecutor also was critical of the media, saying “the most significant challenge” for his office was a “24-hour news cycle and an insatiable appetite for something – for anything – to talk about.”
In his statement, McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed when he was killed.
Family 'profoundly disappointed'
As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.
Brown’s family released a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” in the decision but asked that the public “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
What happens next?
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, Brown’s family could also file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.