ST. LOUIS — Protests that began peacefully over the death of George Floyd turned violent in the St. Louis area, where four police officers were shot and wounded and a retired St. Louis police captain was killed by looters at a pawn shop, actions that the governor blamed on “criminals” and “thugs.”
St. Louis police on Tuesday said 77-year-old David Dorn, who retired in 2007 after 38 years with the department, was fatally shot during a break-in at a pawn shop.
Several thousand people joined the demonstrations in St. Louis over Floyd’s death and police treatment of African Americans on Monday.
But that night and into Tuesday morning, a downtown convenience store was burned, windows were smashed, more than 60 businesses were burglarized and officers were pelted with rocks and fireworks. The burglarized businesses include 17 cellphone stores, nine beauty supply stores, eight cash or pawn shops and three Foot Lockers, according to a preliminary list from police. There also were seven property-damage reports, to ATMs, car dealerships, even a church, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he was deploying more than 1,000 National Guard troops in response to the crimes and attacks in St. Louis that, he said, had nothing to do with protesting.
“No they’re not protesters,” said Parson, a Republican and former sheriff. “They’re criminals and they’re thugs and they need to be held accountable, and hopefully they’ll get hunted down.”
Meanwhile, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a 9 p.m. curfew.
“What started as a very nonviolent and peaceful demonstration and protest ended in looting, shooting, burning and attacks on law enforcement,” she said. “This cannot be and will not be tolerated.”
Just after midnight, with only a couple of hundred people still on the streets, someone opened fire on officers standing in line, Police Chief John Hayden said. Two officers were struck in the leg, one was hit in the foot and one was hit in the arm. All four are expected to recover.
Hayden choked back tears as he expressed thanks they weren’t more seriously hurt.
“Some coward fired shots at officers and now we have four in the hospital,” said Hayden. “But thankfully — thank God — they’re alive. They’re alive! Can we make some sense out of this? Can we make some sense out of this? That’s all I’m trying to say.”
No one has been arrested in that shooting.
Bishop Elijah Hankerson, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, cautioned against lumping together the thousands of peaceful protesters with the “criminal element hiding behind” them.
“To loot buildings, to burn buildings down, and to take an innocent life like was taken last night, does not do anything for the cause of justice,” Hankerson said. “If anything, it distracts away from it.”
At about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, St. Louis officers in a marked police car who were searching for people stealing from businesses were shot at by men inside a car. Police chased the car into St. Louis County, where county officers joined the chase.
At a dead-end street in Jennings, just north of St. Louis, three suspects got out and ran and one of the men shot at the officers, St. Louis County Police spokesman Benjamin Granda said. One officer returned fire and struck the 21-year-old suspect, who is hospitalized with what police called life-threatening injuries. A 25-year-old man was taken into custody and the third suspect got away.
Granda said two guns were recovered at the scene.
The 39-year-old officer involved in the shooting is a five-year veteran of the force. No officers were injured.
In Kansas City on Tuesday, Mayor Quentin Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith said officials are trying to reduce tension between protesters and police after mostly peaceful protests devolved into violence during the past three nights.
Protesters gathered again Tuesday at a park near the Country Club Plaza but police were not lined up nearby and will be called in only when needed, Lucas said in a Facebook post. The mayor also said he would not order a curfew for Tuesday night.
“We have reached the point in our city and our country where de-escalation needs to be our guide,” Lucas said.
Smith said police and city officials are constantly reevaluating tactics to find a balance between allowing people to freely protest and maintaining the safety of the public and law enforcement officers.
Protesters nationwide are decrying the May 25 death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man. The officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Parson said he understands the anger of Floyd’s death, but that shootings and destroying businesses won’t be tolerated.
“I’m not going to put up with total chaos in this state,” Parson said. “We’re better than that.”