ST. LOUIS — St. Louis’ top cop got emotional while searching for answers about the violence that’s hitting the city and communities around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“There’s a pit in my stomach. I’m stunned. We need to pray for our city and pray for these officers,” Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday morning.
Four St. Louis police officers were shot while working during protests that turned into riots Monday night. All four are expected to survive.
“Some coward fired shots at officers and now we have four in the hospital. But thankfully, thank God they’re alive, “ Chief Hayden said, getting choked up and holding back tears.
“Can we make some sense out of this?" he pleaded. "That’s all I’m trying to say.”
Hayden described the agitators who turned a peaceful protest violent as “crazy people” who were hyping up the crowd. He said they threw rocks, bottles, fireworks and gas at officers.
“I don’t understand what that has to do with Mr. Floyd’s death,” the police chief said, exasperated. “Mr. Floyd’s death is tragic. But can we make something out of these kids coming down here and just started like crazy, jumping up and down, high fiving each other, flourishing pistols. I don’t know what else to say. This is horrible.”
Hayden said that smaller crowds of agitators had no intention of doing anything constructive, unlike the much larger peaceful crowd that marched through the downtown St. Louis area earlier Monday.
“What does stealing have to do with any of this? Folks came down there just to steal, just to destroy property and just to hurt officers. That was the purpose of them coming. I’m not processing that,” he said.
Looters smashed out the windows of a 7-Eleven near Pine and North 17th streets, just a couple blocks from where the officers were shot. One rioter threw a firework into the convenience store and moments later smoke started billowing out of the business. Within seconds, the store was on fire.
“I can’t describe my emotions. I just know I don’t understand what’s going on. Innocent officers being shot at,” he said to reporters.
Latest coverage on the George Floyd investigation:
- Independent autopsy says George Floyd died from 'asphyxiation from sustained pressure'
- Trump slams governors as 'weak,' urges crackdown on protests
- Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin transferred to maximum-security Minnesota state prison
- Minneapolis police union president: Officers in George Floyd case 'terminated without due process'