by Sgt. Gary Wiegert
I respect St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar and wish he was in charge the night I happened to be in the middle of a riot.
Like everyone in the country, I had different opinions on the actions of the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo. I became set in my beliefs when I worked the security detail Friday night for CNN reporters covering the protest in the Ferguson maelstrom.
To quell the looting, rioting, and gun shot incidents,on previous nights, the Ferguson police needed help from police departments in the St. Louis area. These officers worked under the unified command of the St. Louis County Police Department. St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar was in charge. Some people took exception to the use of armored vehicles, displaying of guns and arrests of protesters and media.
That is when politics changed the equation and a void in leadership occurred. Governor Nixon, with the support of Senator Claire McCaskill, County Supervisor Charley Dooley and St. Louis Police Chief Doyle Dotson determined to give command and control to the Missouri Highway Patrol. The highway patrol was out of their league and chaos ensued.
While working security for the camera crews I was stunned when the highway patrol abandoned the citizens and businesses of Ferguson. I, too, felt abandoned. I watched looters and rioters ply their trade while the police refused to respond. I was powerless to protect the camera crew, so I kept the van running with an escape route if rioting became too dangerous.
For 3 hours I was parked beside the Ferguson Market and watched as looters systematically stole liquor and cigarettes. The thieves were a gang of bloods wearing red and black and they controlled the theft until they had their fill. When they drove off individuals ran up and mass looting occurred with looters running off in different directions carrying the leftovers from the market.
I also observed rioters go to their vehicles and place handguns in their waistbands as they shuffled past me to join the protesters. Meanwhile, carloads of thugs arrived wearing masks. Scores of white agitators wearing gas masks joined the pandemonium. Through all of this, random gunfire punctuated the night. No police response.
At one point, the gunfire grew so heavy that an eight-man security team evacuated its position in the QuikTrip parking lot, dragging along newscasters. I was stunned by the courage of news cameramen who hung in to the last possible moment of escape. They had to get “The Money Shot” of looters and arsonists. At this point, it was every man for himself as news crews and security scrambled to save their lives. The Missouri Highway Patrol was missing in action. .
The predators observed weakness in the new commander Captain Johnson. Criminals took advantage of his appeasement strategy. His comments apologizing for police behavior and stated embarrassment at wearing the blue uniform did not help the situation. His misguided belief in hugs and kisses to the protesters did not placate the looters and rioters.
The solution to the problem relies on local control and strong, local leadership. Interference from Governor Nixon and Attorney General Eric Holder won’t help the situation.
Video by Lee A. Presser