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Missouri scales back National Guard operations in wake of Ferguson unrest

Citing “improving conditions” in the region, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has announced the state will begin reducing the National Guard presence in St. Louis County.

“As the Guard begins to scale back its operations, the Missouri State Highway Patrol will continue to work closely with local law enforcement agencies,” Nixon said in a statement released Tuesday.

A state of emergency was declared in Missouri on Nov. 17, a move that allowed Gov. Nixon to deploy the Guard ahead of a Ferguson grand jury’s decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The state of emergency was set to expire Dec. 17.

When the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson was announced, widespread unrest broke out that saw businesses looted and burned to the ground. Sun-Times reporter Kim Janssen was in Ferguson Monday night and described the scene –

Despite calls for peace from slain 18-year-old Michael Brown’s family, the scenes both they and authorities had feared came awfully true within minutes of the announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the fatal shooting of Brown on Aug. 9.

Arsonists torched a Walgreens store and two cars, including a police car, as looters hit at least half a dozen more stores amid occasional gunfire, blasts of police tear gas and bottles lobbed by protesters.

The chaos descended within minutes after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that Wilson would not be charged in an incendiary case that has captured international headlines.

Ferguson’s mayor was critical of Gov. Nixon’s use of the National Guard.

“They should have had National Guard troops protecting the hard targets in Ferguson and allowed law enforcement to pursue a very mobile crowd of looters and arsonists,” Mayor James Knowles III said the day after the jury decision.

As a result of the criticism, Nixon ordered hundreds of more members of the National Guard to be deployed.