St. Charles County Police moved proactively on the evening of Aug. 12 in response to social media comments claiming the situation in Ferguson may cross the river.
Drivers on Zumbehl Road around 7 p.m. witnessed a convoy of several dozen police vehicles, including an armored S.W.A.T. vehicle, heading towards downtown St. Charles. It didn’t take long for Twitter to light up with pictures and video posts containing images of police cruising the downtown area.
According to St. Charles County Police Department Lieutenant Dave Tiefenbrunn, the deployment was taken as a precautionary measure, and was in response to several posts on social media websites claiming that looting was going to cross over into St. Charles County.
“In light of the situation in Ferguson, we did not want to take any chances,” Tiefenbrunn said.
The St. Peters Police Department also received a bevy of callers asking for information about a perceived threat and potential protesting at Mid Rivers Mall. Officer Melissa Doss, St. Peter’s community and media relations officer, said that the callers were all inquires about the situation, and none were first-hand reports of threats.
“We got a lot of unsubstantiated rumors that there was supposed to be protestors at Mid Rivers Mall,” Doss said. “We never found anything credible to those rumors and couldn’t find an originating source.”
Doss said the St. Peters Police Department provided extra patrols to the area in order to make sure there were no issues. Both Doss and Tiefenbrunn said no incidents occurred on the night of Aug. 12.
Much of St. Charles County’s growth resulted from residents of North St. Louis County heading west. Many of these residents remain connected to North County through employment at Emerson Electric Co., headquartered in Ferguson and Express Scripts, in nearby Normandy. Boeing’s St. Louis campus also is nearby in Hazelwood, and employs residents from St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
These connections make the violence and unrest in Ferguson feel very close to home.
In man-on-the-street interviews, on Aug. 11-12, St. Charles County residents reacted to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and rioting that followed.
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“The riots have nothing to do with the unfortunate shooting. They are just criminals taking advantage of an incident that has not yet been fully investigated. It is a shame that destroying one’s own town is thought to solve problems … And, why is it that a police officer has no right to defend himself like we do? Why is it that a police officer, especially of another race, is always guilty until proven innocent?”
–17-year-old St. Charles resident who asked to remain anonymous
“Well I think it’s very sad. I think that there’s a certain faction who use this type of tragedy to their own purposes and I don’t think that the looting and all of that really has anything to do with what happened. I think it’s just an excuse for bad behavior and I’m very saddened for the family, because that was a horrible thing to have happen and it’s very upsetting for the community as well.”
– Sharron L., St. Peters
“I’m just disgusted by the whole thing. I know things happen, but the facts haven’t come out and nobody knows the truth at what’s happen yet and the riots are ridiculous. I mean there are people coming from other cities to go down and riot an area they’re not even from. I know this community is afraid they’re going to come down here and do the same thing. So we’re a little bit on edge I guess you could say.”
– Cheryl S., St. Peters
“I haven’t heard a lot of detail about what happened with the young man on Saturday, but regardless I think that it’s truly a shame that the people are then looting, burning QT all those different things for the simple fact of those store owners are not responsible for what happened, and the store owners may not rebuild in that area.”
– Annette C., St. Charles
“My heart is very saddened. I just think it’s totally unnecessary. My heart goes out to the young man who lost his family, who lost his life. I think that definitely something should be done; however, I don’t think that looting is the answer I think that we need to take a productive stand and work together as a team to achieve what they’re originally trying to achieve, which is to make sure there is fairness in the police department as well as young teenagers not being harassed or murdered. I just think to destroy the businesses within the community is not the solution.”
– Michelle B., Wentzville
“I think what’s going on doesn’t solve anything. I don’t even think it has anything to do with the boy that died either. I think it’s just to me a just a bunch of angry people taking advantage of a situation and just making it worse than it has to be.”
Tanea J., North County, visiting Mid Rivers Mall
“Well I think if people are going to be upset they should be doing it in a respectful way or at least within the law; they shouldn’t start committing crimes – looting, breaking into stores, breaking into businesses – that’s just acting like animals. I think everyone is playing this race card. It’s over and done with. If it was a white kid that had been killed nothing would have been said about it.”
– Denise G., O’Fallon
West County residents react to violence in Ferguson
On Aug. 15, on the heels of the release of new information in the Michael Brown shooting, including the name of the Ferguson Police officer, West Newsmagazine took to the streets to gather local reaction. Here’s what patrons of Chesterfield Commons had to say:
“I just think it’s a shame, just terrible. A lot of ambiguity to the situation, how it happened, when it started, how it started. It just seemed like a powder keg waiting to explode. It’s unfortunate. I don’t know where some of that stuff comes from.”
– Jeremy, St. Louis
“I think it’s necessary to release his (the police officer’s) name to the public. If you want to have a transparent and thorough and fair investigation into what happened, then there is no reason to hide. We don’t know what happened yet, but you want everyone to feel that they’re getting equal access to the law and to the process.”
– Rachael P., Chesterfield
“I think that they should have a diverse police force. And they should be taught when to use guns.”
– Marta, West County
“I don’t support a culture that jumps to conclusions without getting the facts first. We have no idea what actually happened, and what the officer was faced with, yet people used this as an excuse to just loot and pillage.”
– Jack B., Chesterfield
“I know yesterday, they assigned the Highway Patrol, and I was watching the march, and I thought that really changed the atmosphere. I saw pictures (and) the police were actually talking to the people instead of standing there being all intimidating. I felt like it was a different atmosphere from what was happening the last few days. It was just a really nice change.”
– 18-year-old Ballwin resident who wished to remain anonymous
[Editor’s note: Amy Armour and Michael Ryan contributed to this story.]