After a grand jury moved not to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, protests erupted into chaos in the town. Dozens of buildings were reportedly set ablaze, with heavy gunfire sounding through the streets late into the night.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch started reading the grand jury decision around 8:15 p.m. local time, and just after the announcement, the St. Louis Dispatch reports, protesters remained "relatively peaceful." Some began to flank the lanes of Interstate 44, eventually blocking all traffic.
KSDK reports "the protest took a turn when police brought out riot gear." Police "eventually lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse crowds," KMOV reports. As protests and fires continued through the night, heavy gunfire from automatic weapons could be heard amongst the larger crowds of protesters.
Ferguson police reportedly arrested 29 people last night and several businesses were seen being looted and many more were on fire. Local hospitals confirmed to the St. Louis Dispatch admitting at least 13 with injuries, including two with gunshot wounds.
Asst. Fire Chief Steve Fair of the Ferguson Fire Department told KSDK that firefighters battled "approximately 25 structure fires," but the department struggled to contain flames with heavy gunfire in the streets. "Not just a little bit of gunfire, a lot of gunfire," Fair told the station. From KMOV:
Several North County businesses we set on fire, including many that were looted in August protests. Some of the businesses burned include a Walgreens store, a Little Caesars, Beauty Town, JC Wireless, O'Reilly Auto Parts and an Auto Zone. Later in the night, a Conoco gas station was set on fire and several cars on a nearby auto lot were burned.
"What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August, and that's truly unfortunate," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters at a press conference just after 1:30 a.m. local time.
"I don't think we were underprepared," Belmar went on. "But I'll be honest with you, unless we bring 10,000 policemen in here, I don't think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community."
Soon after the press conference, around 2 a.m., the St. Louis Dispatch reports, "at least five busloads" of buses carrying Missouri National Guard troops rolled into the town at Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's behest.
The timing of the announcement of the grand jury's decision has come into question: Local authorities had moved for a daytime reveal to avoid the violent protests Ferguson saw in August, but "asked about the timing," the New York Times reports," Nixon said "it had been the choice of Mr. McCulloch."
Benjamin Crump, Michael Brown's family's lawyer, told the Times that they will be pursuing other legal options. "They don't trust this prosecutor; they never did from the beginning," Crump told the paper. "And they are going to try to see if they can do something to get some positive change out of this because they understand this system needs to be changed."
Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden, the Times reports, was standing with the crowd outside the police station when McCulloch made the announcement that the grand jury will not indict Wilson.
"They wrong!" she screamed, pointing at the police officers lined up outside the station. "Y'all know y'all wrong!"
[Images via AP]