Records: Police wanted Guard in Ferguson neighborhood

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 4:52 PM
Records: Police wanted  Guard in Ferguson neighborhood

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis area authorities planning for a grand jury announcement sought unsuccessfully to station National Guard troops and armored Humvees in a Ferguson neighborhood where Michael Brown had been shot by a policeman, according to records released Tuesday detailing the state's preparations.

The Guard wasn't preemptively deployed to Ferguson's most troubled spots, because Gov. Jay Nixon preferred to place police on the front lines for the Nov. 24 announcement that Darren Wilson, a white officer, wouldn't be charged for killing the unarmed black 18-year-old.

Protesters upset by the decision looted stores and set fire to businesses and vehicles as images of the destruction were televised nationwide. Some residents, local officials and state legislators have since questioned why Nixon didn't more quickly deploy the National Guard to those areas.

Nixon's office provided hundreds of pages of documents to The Associated Press on Tuesday in response to an open records request that had been pending since early December. The materials also were given to a legislative committee that has been holding hearings on Nixon's use of the National Guard.

The records show that security planning began long before the grand jury announcement, as officials sought to avoid a repeat of the sometimes violent protests that occurred after Brown was shot Aug. 9.

On Oct. 10, the National Guard sent Nixon's office a presentation outlining its potential use. Among other things, it noted that the Guard could be mobilized early to reduce the potential of the president deploying troops, and it said up to 1,500 security forces could be staged in the St. Louis area on the day of the grand jury decision.

About a month later, the Missouri State Highway Patrol met with police from St. Louis city and county about specific locations where the Guard could be used. The police sought Guard protection at numerous government buildings, including fire stations, as well as at various businesses, according to memos provided to Nixon's office.

A Nov. 13 patrol memo said that St. Louis County police sought to use National Guard troops at the Canfield Green apartments, near where Brown had been shot, and along West Florissant Avenue, which had been the focal point of prior protests and looting. The memo said county police also sought the Guard's protection at the Ferguson Police Department but were told that probably wasn't possible.

A St. Louis County police spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

An internal National Guard memo, dated Nov. 18, said the proposal to send eight armored Humvees and 64 soldiers to the Canfield Green apartments "does not appear to meet Governor's intent for initial National Guard use."

That same day, Col. Dave Boyle sent an email to National Guard colleagues updating their preparations for potential unrest in the St. Louis area.

"Optics of various sorts are important as we head towards this mission," Boyle wrote, adding that the Guard was planning for a "lower profile, less confrontation" mission that would emphasize its support role and "minimize public militarization perception."

Nixon has said that he wanted to avoid the potential for soldiers to point guns at — and potentially shoot — American citizens. He has noted that no one was killed in the Nov. 24 riots, even though many buildings were burned and vandalized.

"I think when people look back on this, they will appreciate that we showed an incredible amount of discipline," Nixon told reporters last week.

The Guard was eventually sent to the Ferguson areas that were burned and looted, but only after much of the damage had been done.

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Associated Press reporters Summer Ballentine and Marie French in Jefferson City and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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Follow David A. Lieb at: https://twitter.com/DavidALieb .