Ferguson Mayor James Knowles criticized what he characterized as a delayed deployment of the National Guard during Monday’s night of mayhem in the embattled Missouri city where a grand jury ruled it wouldn’t charge white police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death of unarmed, black, 18-year-old Michael Brown.
After the decision was made public on Monday night, Ferguson businesses were looted, at least 12 buildings were set ablaze and more than 80 people were arrested in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis.
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“The National Guard was not deployed in enough time to save all our businesses,” said Knowles at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at a community center gym. He called the response “deeply disturbing” and requested that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon send the necessary resources to protect residents and businesses owners, many he said, who are wondering, “What happens tonight?”
“The state of Missouri took control through the emergency declaration from the governor,” said Knowles. “The assets that were deployed here were under control from the unified command. It was not a decision made by myself nor a decision by our city manager or our police chief or our chain of command. As much as I would like to be able to make that call, it was not my call to be able to make.”
And Knowles offered a window into some of the failures of official leadership throughout the Ferguson crisis when he said he and Nixon haven’t talked since the summer.
“I have not spoken to the governor since maybe the third week of August,” Knowles said. “I would appreciate being kept in the loop maybe a little better.”
Asked whether his relationship with Nixon was strained, he said: “I don’t have enough of a relationship with the governor to say that it’s strained.”
Knowles was flanked by clergy and business owners who condemned the violence and the looting.
Earlier in the day, Brown’s family lawyer Benjamin Crump held a separate press conference in which he criticized the system that failed to indict Wilson.
“This process is broken,” he said. “The process should be indicted. It should be indicted because of continuous systematic results that are yielded by this process.”
Police and witnesses have said Brown and Wilson engaged in a physical struggle through the window of the officer’s SUV shortly before the teen’s death. Law enforcement officials say Brown attempted to take Wilson’s gun when the police officer fired the first shot. A half-dozen eye-witnesses have said publicly that they saw Brown flee from the vehicle as Wilson open fire with the fatal shots landing as the teen stopped, turned to the officer and raised his arms in surrender. In testimony to a grand jury, which has been made public, Wilson said he feared for his safety when the teen turned and charged back toward him after running from the vehicle.
The mayor reiterated that Wilson remains on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. “No decision has been made. His current employment status has not changed,” said Knowles.