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After night of looting in St. Louis suburb, merchants begin repairs

Businesses begin cleaning up after a night of looting in a St. Louis suburb following a fatal police shooting

On Monday, the sound of hammers could be heard for more than a mile up and down West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, where vandals had smashed windows and looted fast-food stores and an auto shop and set fire to a convenience store.

Overnight, an angry crowd turned violent after a vigil for 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer Saturday. Police said Brown had struggled with the officer before the shooting. But witnesses and demonstrators have disputed the police account and demanded that the suspended officer be fired and prosecuted.

Employees of the damaged businesses focused Monday on cleaning up and assessing the losses.

Workers hustled to replace Zisser Tire's signature wraparound windows with plywood as evening approached. Looters broke into the store and stole tire rims from the showroom — each of them single display pieces for four-piece sets — and video captured one person using a rim to smash out each of the windows. Looters also entered the back of the store, broke into a gold Escalade and destroyed the dash.

Dennis G. Ferguson, a salesman for the store, told The Times that he had called the owner and debated bringing rifles down to the store as the looters worked their way down Florissant Avenue. Ultimately he decided against it. It was "too dangerous," he said.

Another employee said that even after workers had arrived at the store Monday morning, a stranger came in and stole an iPad from the counter. Police caught him.

Ferguson insisted that the looting did not reflect the neighborhood. "This is a nice community," he said, noting that residents had helped protect businesses overnight. "We had several teenagers come by to see if they could help clean up."

A few blocks away, workers replaced the shattered glass from a Family Dollar store in a strip mall where a cellphone store and two check-cashing and payday loan companies had been damaged.

At the end of the strip mall, the rioters smashed out the door of the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.

An alarm company had called store manager Bill Andre at 11:30 p.m. Sunday to tell him that the store's alarm was going off. Andre had been watching the chaos on the news.

"I said, 'I've been expecting your call,'" Andre said.

When employees got to the store Monday morning, Andre said, "We were shocked to see such minimal damage."

No one had stepped a foot inside. There was half of a red brick inside, the weapon that had knocked out the glass door, causing perhaps $1,000 worth of damage. Nothing else in the store of hand-me-down clothes was missing. "We don't have brand-new shoes to loot," Andre said.

But he figures he will wait a couple days to replace the door with new glass. "We're afraid it'll happen again," Andre said.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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