Sonny Dayan owns a cellphone store on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. He trusted his neighbors and police to protect him, even after his shop was looted during earlier vandalism in the wake of the police killing of
On Monday night, his shop was looted again.
Dayan, 53, stood in the middle of his cellphone store, STL Cordless, surrounded by shattered glass. He held a cellphone in each hand, talking into both of them.
Looters shattered both of his front windows, he said when he got off the phone. "They took everything -- phones, cases, everything."
Bystanders told him police had stood by and watched.
Earlier, he said, "I talked to people on the street and they said not to worry. They said this time the focus will be on institutions, not businesses."
Unlike most merchants on West Florissant, Dayan didn't cover his windows.
"I didn't want to be another boarded-up store on this strip," he said, adding that customers had thanked him for staying open as the grand jury worked.
Looters also ransacked a liquor store they also struck in August, during the last round of major vandalism. At least five major fires were burning along the street, including another cellphone store, a public storage business, an auto parts store and a title company.
Dayan said police had promised him there would be more security this time, more protection.
"They told us they would try to root that kind of violence out. I don't know how much success they had," he said Monday. "They had promised to eliminate this but it happened right across from them."
Dayan said he figured that by not boarding up the windows, he would demonstrate his trust in the community and not be targeted. As he drove to the store after being alerted to the looting, he said he realized he had underestimated the criminal element in the area.
"An opportunity like that arises, they're going to take it," he said, his voice calm as he mused, "Maybe we'll learn something from this.
"It's hard. It's just a tough kick to your gut – you're trying to do the right thing, and you know there's so much good in the area," he said.
Born in Israel, Dayan moved first to the Los Angeles area, then to his wife's hometown of St. Louis, where customers eager for him to move to Ferguson found him his shop. After 18 years in business, he was determined to pick up the pieces and reopen, again.
"I have to – I'm serving a lot of people, I have been for years and years," he said. "They need me."
Glionna reported from Ferguson, Mo., and Hennessy-Fiske reported from Houston.