Officials in Ferguson: 'Our community is going to have to take some responsibility for what happened'

WATCH: Ferguson protesters set police car on fire
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

FERGUSON, MO (WMC) - Things were getting back to normal in Ferguson, Missouri after Monday night protests and looting caused several fires and damaged local businesses.

The National Guard strengthened troops in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday evening as protesters returned to the streets. Earlier in the evening on the corner of Chamber and W. Florissant, a small crowd gathered and started shouting "hands up, don't shoot".

However, things quickly went downhill shortly before 10 p.m. when protesters flipped a police car and set it on fire near city hall.

More than a dozen businesses were torched and the Associated Press is reporting that 80 people were arrested. The fallout comes from a grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.The St. Louis County police chief says these are the worst protests in the area since Brown was killed in August.

The morning light unveiled smoldering streets following the violent protests that happened overnight.

"I know of at least a dozen buildings that have been set on fire," said Chief Jon Belmar, St. Louis County Police Department. "Most of those are total losses. I can't tell you, I personally heard about 150 shots fired."

It was that gunfire that kept firefighters from battling the flames that burned building after building to the ground.

"If you go along West Florissant, those are dreams and those are businesses and those dreams are torn apart," said Captain Ron Johnson, Missouri Highway Patrol.

The grand jury's decision came in an evening news conference. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch stressed that the panel of seven men and five women, nine of whom are white and three of whom are black, are the only ones who examined all of the evidence.

"They met on 25 separate days in the past three months, heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses," McCulloch said.

Witnesses and evidence, he says, indicate that Brown scuffled with Wilson as Wilson tried to get out of his patrol car. His gun came out of its holster and discharged twice.

The evidence McCulloch talked about did not stop the violence in Ferguson.

Ferguson is a town of about 21,000 people; it's about double the size of Millington, Tenn. It is home to dozens of locally owned businesses, like Prime Beauty, which is next door to Just Insurance.

"People handle anger differently," said Deon Ross, who owns Just Insurance. "I, myself, I wouldn't have reacted this way ... I don't think the response should have been this way. I think when you're dealing with the law, you deal with law on law terms."

Dean Ross says most people are unhappy with the grand jury's choice not to indict Officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

But when looters took to the streets, breaking glass windows, stealing from stores and starting fires, he shook his head.

Ross says the imagines coming out of Ferguson should begin a conversation that even Memphis can learn from.

"There's a lot of racial divide across this country," he said. "This is not the approach that I would like to see this whole country go through."

"I think it's just people are in disbelief, the business owners and everything," said Sheldon Curtis, who helped board up businesses, clear streets, and try to get things back to normal in Ferguson. "They're not really coming together at this point to clean up. They are kind of just soaking it all in."

He continued, "It's weird to come and see all of this destruction in my home town. But we've come across other groups that want to clean up."

Business owners say the clean up will take time.

"I would hope that we can learn to live together," Curtis said. "We've been progressing for the last 46 years, since the death of Martin Luther King. And to go that far forward and take 10 steps backwards is not good."

"Our community is going to have to take some responsibility for what happened tonight," Capt. Johnson added. "For what happened tonight as far as tearing our community apart."

It's a community now dealing with another heavy blow after three months of turmoil.

Click here to see more images of the damage.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.