Ferguson, Mo -
A bad night in America.
Ferguson. Tear gas, fires, broken windows and no indictment.
Charlie LeDuff was on the streets as protests and the police response turned ugly Monday night. Around 9:15 Monday night, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch laid out the findings of the 12 member grand jury. The 9 white and three black men and women decided that Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges for killing 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown.
As the announcement was read inside the office and streamed to homes across the country, word started to leak out in the crowd and Charlie LeDuff was in the middle of it. Watch the chaos unfold as it happened by clicking play on the YouTube video above and be sure to subscribe to The Americans with Charlie LeDuff on YouTube. App users, click here to view the video.
As the crowd digested the decision outside the police station, angry shouts rose from the crowd. Metal barricades set up around the crowd were pushed over but a calm seemed to settle with the crowd for about 30 minutes
Charlie was talking with the crowd under the Seasons Greetings sign outside the police department about the racial divide between the two sections of Ferguson. He was speaking with a couple about the decision who said they were amazed by the decision.
Then, all hell broke loose.
From the distance, behind the Seasons Greetings sign strung over the street, four gunshots were fired. It's unknown who fired them or where exactly they came from but it was the spark for the crowd. The protesters began marching towards the gunshots chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" as well as "Hands up! Don't Shoot!"
Charlie found himself on the line between protesters and St. Louis police officers armed in riot gear. The crowd on the front line was peaceful and continuing their chants. Behind the front line, protesters started to try and flip a St. Louis County Police car. They dented the doors but were unable to turn the vehicle over.
A police car had several windows smashed and when officers arrived with guns, the crowd moved to a building and started smashing in windows. Police marched down the street and were ordering protesters out of the street, telling them they were unlawfully assembled. With police on both sides, protesters were trapped while being told they were subject to arrest for being unlawfully assembled. They had nowhere to go.
The Americans team tried to distance themselves from the chaos and followed police orders. That's when they spotted two women throwing rocks through windows and running away giggling.
Flares were shot into the sky over Charlie LeDuff and The Americans crew. They backed away but soon after, tear gas was fired. They couldn't get away from the effects. Charlie and his photojournalist were both unable to continue. They were forced to take a break to clean their eyes and sinuses.
At least two St. Louis County Police cars were burned, 12 buildings were burned, and over 60 were arrested.
By the end of the night, LeDuff and The Americans were gassed twice by police, which rolled through with riot gear and armored vehicles.
A British photojournalist, named Jay, watched two buildings burn with Charlie. As they wondered where the fire trucks were, they learned the firefighters had, in fact, arrived, but they dropped their hoses and then left before fighting the flames.
"Maybe to a small element it's a license to let hell come loose," Jay said.
"They achieved it," LeDuff said.