Nixon Calls National Guard to Ferguson, Cites "Deliberate, Coordinated" Attacks on Police
Update 1 p.m.: There will be no curfew tonight, according to a statement released this afternoon from the governor's office. The National Guard will be on the scene. See below for more details. End of update.
Danny Wicentowski Police fired both tear gas and smoke grenades at protesters Sunday night.
Following the most violent night in Ferguson since last Sunday, Governor Jay Nixon announced early Monday morning that he's sending National Guard troops to the troubled north-county suburb.
"Tonight, a day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk," said the governor in a statement that accompanied his executive order.
Reports of shots fired around 8:30 p.m. last night derailed what had been a massive -- yet peaceful -- demonstration along West Florissant Avenue. Police later reported multiple gunshot victims shot by civilians (not police) and molotov-cocktail attacks on officers.
"Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard to assist...in restoring peace and order to this community," Nixon said.
Danny Wicentowski Protesters dragged traffic cones, bricks, shopping carts and other items to fashion a makeshift blockade on West Florissant Avenue.
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Nixon's order came as a surprise. During a press conference held less than hour before the governor's announcement, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told reporters the new security measures under consideration did not include National Guard troops.
Johnson has been widely praised for his handling of the complicated enforcement challenges present in Ferguson. Since the shooting death of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, violence and looting have marred several of the nightly demonstrations held along the town's main drag, West Florissant Avenue.
"Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayers and messages of unity, peace and justice, took a very different turn after dark," Johnson told reporters just after 1 a.m. Monday morning.
"The catalyst was not civil disobedience, but preplanned agitation and aggression. Coordinated, in many cases."
8:25 p.m.: A civilian was reported shot on West Florissant and Ferguson avenues. When officers responded to reach the victim, Johnson said they were met with gunfire and molotov cocktails. Around the same time, vandalism and looting was reported at Domino's Pizza, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Family Dollar and a public-storage company -- all located on West Florissant Avenue.
8:27: Police received a report that a subject was down, felled by gunfire.
8:28: Police received a report of eight people with guns in the same area. Tactical teams were deployed.
8:56: Hundreds of protesters marched toward the police command center located in the Buzz Westfall shopping center. Johnson said multiple molotov cocktails were thrown at officers, who deployed tear gas "in order to disperse the crowd and stop the violent action."
Danny Wicentowski Police fired volleys of tear-gas canisters, flash-bang grenades and smoke bombs Sunday night.
9:15: Police received a call that a large crowd was gathering at the McDonald's on the corner of West Florissant and Ferguson. Five minutes later the restaurant was overrun and employees had locked themselves in a storage room.
Johnson said he received multiple reports of additional moltov cocktails thrown at officers throughout the night, an escalation that demanded a higher level of response from police.
"For those who would claim that the curfew was what led to tonight's violence, I would remind you that this incident began before 8:30, three-and-a-half hours before the curfew," he said.
Two or three people were injured by gunfire coming from within a crowd of protesters, said Johnson. Police made "seven or eight" arrests as well. He did not explain how police determined that last night's violence was coordinated or preplanned.
Danny Wicentowski Police snipers were also on the scene in Ferguson last night.
Update continued: In a statement issue this afternoon, Governor Nixon described the the National Guard's "immediate and limited responsibilities" in Ferguson from here on out.
The Guard is tasked with protecting the police's Unified Command Center at the Buzz Westfall shopping center, which law enforcement officials claim was the target of a "coordinated attack" last night.
Police have yet to specify the nature of the alleged "coordination," or how last night's violence -- which included gunfire and molotov cocktails directed at police -- differed from previous molotov cocktail attacks. Photos of protesters lighting rags stuffed in bottles began circulating on Wednesday last week, but no one claimed that those attacks were evidence "coordination."
Here are some of the photos of protesters using molotov cocktails last week, courtesy of Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson.
Continue for the full text both Governor Nixon's statements and his executive order to bring the National Guard to Ferguson