St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said early on Tuesday
that at least a dozen buildings were torched and that he counted
about 150 gunshots during a night of looting, vandalism, arson and
clashes between demonstrators and police that resulted in at least
Flights over the area were restricted and police struggled to
contain protesters who took to the streets of Ferguson, a suburb of
St Louis, smashing shop windows and torching cars and businesses
despite President Barack Obama's calls for restraint.
Although no serious injuries were reported, Belmar said the rioting
on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was "much worse" than
disturbances which erupted in the immediate aftermath of the
shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren
Wilson on Aug. 9.
Protests were also staged on Monday night in New York, Chicago,
Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C.,
over a case that has highlighted long-standing racial tensions not
just in predominantly black Ferguson but across the United States.
"Murderers, you're nothing but murderers," one woman shouted through
a megaphone at officers clad in riot gear in Ferguson, after the
grand jury decision was announced.
Angry crowds gathered around the police department in Ferguson after
the grand jury found there was no probable cause to charge Wilson
with any crime in the shooting.
St. Louis police reported heavy gunfire late on Monday in the area
near where Brown was slain, but Belmar said officers did not fire a
shot, even after they were pelted with rocks, bottles, batteries and
Police did fire volleys of tear gas and flash-bang canisters.
TWO SIDES OF TRAGEDY
Wilson could have faced charges ranging from involuntary
manslaughter to first-degree murder, and Brown's family said through
their lawyers that they were "profoundly disappointed" by the grand
"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that
you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive
change," the family said in a statement.
Attorneys for Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave and has
avoided the spotlight since the shooting, said he was following his
training and the law when he shot Brown.
"We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand
jury's decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an
opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner," the statement
As unrest flared following the announcement of the decision, Obama
called for protesters to remain peaceful and for police to show
"We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to
broader challenges that we still face as a nation," the president
told a televised news conference. "In too many parts of this country
a deep distrust exists between police and communities of color."
As protests escalated in Ferguson, a group mobbed a police car,
throwing rocks and knocking out its windows, prompting a group of
officers in riot gear to advance. Sounds of gunshots briefly caused
police to take cover behind their vehicles.
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Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called up the National Guard ahead of
the ruling to protect against the kind of rioting that erupted in
the weeks after Brown was shot and killed.
Some activists criticized the preemptive deployment as unnecessarily
heavy-handed, particularly following complaints that police inflamed
crowds in August by responding with tear gas and rubber bullets.
But Belmar said thousands of officers would have been needed to
contain the unrest that swept the Midwestern town on Monday night.
SEPARATE PROBE ONGOING
The grand jury of nine whites and three blacks began meeting in late
August and heard testimony from 60 witnesses called by the
prosecution, including medical examiners who performed three
autopsies, one by a private pathologist hired by Brown's family.
"They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge
against officer Wilson," St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch
told reporters in announcing the outcome.
McCulloch declined to say if the jury's decision was unanimous. At
least nine jurors would have needed to agree to indict in order for
Wilson to be charged.
A separate federal probe into the shooting is continuing, and U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized that the Justice Department
investigators had not reached any conclusions.
McCulloch described a tangled mass of conflicting testimony from 60
witnesses about what happened during the incident that led to
Brown's death, but said much of it did not square with the physical
Lawyers for Brown's family say the teen was trying to surrender when
he was shot, while Wilson's supporters say the officer feared for
his life and opened fire in self-defense.
Witnesses disagreed on whether Brown's hands were up at the time he
was shot, McCulloch said, adding that Wilson shot at Brown 12 times.
The final shot hit Brown in the top of his head.
Brown is suspected of having stolen cigars from a nearby convenience
store shortly before the incident. Police said in August that Wilson
was not aware of the robbery at the time.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam
in Kansas City, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle,
Sascha Brodsky and Paul Thomasch in New York, Adrees Latif in
Ferguson and Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone and
Steve Gorman; Editing by Jim Loney, Will Dunham, Leslie Adler, Alex
Richardson and Mike Collett-White)
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