2 meetings held by panel examining Ferguson decisions

AP News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2015 2:57 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A legislative panel that said it would investigate Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's decisions involving the state's response to protests that followed a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown has met just twice since December, with the chairman citing difficulty in coordinating members' schedules.

The Joint Committee on Government Accountability promised to scrutinize why Nixon didn't send in the National Guard to save burning Ferguson businesses after a grand jury decided not to charge Darren Wilson in the August death of the unarmed, black 18-year-old — a shooting that galvanized the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer said he likes to have everyone present at each meeting and that he's aiming to hold one in September, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1OMNzzQ ) reported.

"There's no real immediacy" because legislative recommendations can't be made until lawmakers are in session, he said.

Nixon declared a state of emergency before the grand jury's decision in November, saying St. Louis County police would be in charge in Ferguson with the National Guard deployed to assist them.

Moments after the grand jury announcement, some protesters began looting and setting fires to businesses and vehicles. The National Guard stayed away, and Nixon later said officers sacrificed property to save lives.

During a meeting of the legislative panel in February, St. Louis County fire district officials said they were promised National Guard protection if protests turned violent. They said they learned that wouldn't be case on the day of the grand jury announcement.

The Ferguson mayor said he was unable to get the National Guard to help control the protests. He said he tried to contact two members of the governor's staff but couldn't reach them.

Without another committee meeting, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he may never disclose more details about how and when he learned the National Guard wouldn't be in Ferguson.

"I don't want to get into a situation of dueling depositions," he said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com