By Brandie Piper & Joanie Vasiliadis
FERGUSON, Mo. – Violent protests erupted for hours after it was announced that the grand jury has chosen not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
Officers reported heavy automatic gunfire in the area of W. Florissant and Canfield, police said. A University City police officer was shot at the intersection of Canton Avenue and Lamb Avenue, according to police.
Asst. Fire Chief Steve Fair with the Ferguson Fire Department said they found structure fires along the corridor of Florissant, West Florissant, and Halls Ferry roads.
“We have been fighting approximately 25 structure fires tonight, along with a car dealership where we lost 10 cars that were burned up,” said Fair.
The department had help from all over St. Louis and St. Charles counties, but said it was difficult to make offensive attacks because they were run out by gunfire.
“Not just a little bit of gunfire, a lot of gunfire,” said Fair. “We do everything that we can, and we’ll continue to do everything we can, but we are limited to what we can do.”
Around 3:30 a.m. Fair said crews were still battling five or six active fires. They were still putting out hot spots and mopping up the scenes at others.
He said gas lines were another challenge faced by firefighters throughout the night. Laclede Gas had to come out to the scenes of the fires to shut off service.
“What I’ve seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we saw a couple of months ago,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.
One person was the victim of a carjacking Monday night near the intersection of Ferguson and Lee. Officer Shawn McGuire with the St. Louis County Police Department says the unidentified victim as run over by his own vehicle. His condition has not been released.
Several buildings burned and are reported as total losses. The Little Caesars Pizza in the 10000 block of W. Florissant, Sam’s Meat Market near W. Florissant and Canfield, and a storage facility have been set on fire by looters, according to police.
There was also vandalism along South Grand, near the Shaw neighborhood.
Shyanne Malone, a reporter working on behalf of NewsChannel 5, says hundreds of protesters gathered in the area ahead of the decision. Approximately 50 police officers were in the area, and protests started peacefully.
At one point protesters shut down eastbound and westbound lanes along Interstate 44 near Grand, but that protest remained peaceful.
Malone says the protest took a turn when police brought out riot gear. Windows to the FedEx store along Grand between Arsenal and Hartford were smashed in, with glass strewn throughout the store, candy bars tossed to the floor, and a cooler door left open. The store has been boarded up.
An entire window pane was slammed to the ground at the St. Louis Bread Company restaurant next door to the FedEx store. Trash cans were also toppled in the area.
Malone says protesters tried to stop some vandals, and when confronted, she says the backed up and just wanted to talk about their anger and frustration.
Early estimates put damage in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but nobody was injured.
Residents in the Shaw area are concerned about violent protests and more vandalism on Tuesday.
“The dept continues to ask for preservation of life and property,” St. Louis County police tweeted.
Shots were fired across from the Ferguson Police Department soon after the announcement, police said.
At approximately 9:15 p.m., tear gas was used on S. Florissant protesters after smoke was unsuccessful in dispersing the violent crowd, St. Louis county police said.
At least two St. Louis County police cars were set on fire, both near the 400 block of S. Florissant. The back window of a St. Louis County police car was also shattered, according to police.
“Officers are obligated to protect life and property,” the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted.
Officers responded to a shooting in the 9100 block of Halls Ferry, police said.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown at police, according to the St. Louis County Police Department. Officers on the scene have deployed pepper spray and smoke in an effort to disperse the unruly crowd, police said.
Police say that officers were being hit with rocks and bottles on South Florissant Road. Police made numerous announcements to leave the roadway, which they say were ignored.
There were also reports of looting on W. Florissant, according to police. Officers responded to reports of looting at the Family Dollar on W. Florissant, police said.
A peaceful protester was hit in the face with concrete, according to a tweet by St. Louis County police.