Claire Ward, VICE, November 21, 2014
Business owners in the St. Louis, Missouri area have hired private military contractors to transport guns and gold, fearing their shops will be targeted by looters if a grand jury does not indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in the St. Louis County suburb of Ferguson.
“There’s a lot of people that brought in a lot of money to have people secure their assets,” said Stephen King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies gun shop, a 15-minute drive from Ferguson. “Some of those people spent $10 an hour on security guards and some people have $1,000 a day private contractors.”
King confirmed that gun shops in the area are hiring private military contractors to escort the transport of their guns to secure locations. A private military contractor who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity said that more than 300 private military contractors, or PMCs, have been contracted for work in direct response to Ferguson security concerns.
Jared Ogden, director of operations for Asymmetric Solutions, a private military contractor staffed by former special operations forces told VICE News his company was hired by businesses to transport “St. Louis-based company assets.”
“We’ve got our hands in a bunch things” related to security in the Ferguson area, said Ogden, a former Navy SEAL who was featured on the National Geographic reality program, Survival Alaska.
“If you are a business owner and you are in the business of selling firearms and you’re in an area where shops have been looted, burned down, property stolen, you now have the responsibility to society to ensure to do everything possible to make sure that those firearms do not get into the hands of the wrong people.”
In August, Assymetric provided security detail to a journalist reporting on Ferguson. The group tweeted: “We’ve been to Baghdad, Kabul, KL, Manilla, Peshwar, Bogata. Never guessed we would deploy a high threat team in our own city.”
Missouri Gold Buyers & Jewelry, the largest precious metal buyer in the state, according to the company’s website, has four shops in the St. Louis area, two of which are in North St. Louis County communities neighboring Ferguson. It was one of several area businesses looted following protests over Brown’s death. In August, masked men shattered one of the back windows of the diminutive shop on Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis and got inside, but they were unable to break into the safe, according to the shop’s owner, Mike Duke.
Duke is not taking any risks this time around.
Duke said he employs Cook Security, a private security and surveillance company, to provide security for his shops and has recently hired 12 additional private security guards to protect his stores, and one to escort the transport of gold, diamonds and coins from the stores to a safe location.