(KMOV.com) – St. Louis County tactical officer Matt Caravella said officers felt like they were in danger when rioting began and they did not have armored vehicles or SWAT gear.
The day after Michael Brown, Jr was killed. Caravella said a few dozen police were outnumbered by hundreds of demonstrators. Caravella said they heard gunshots and became targets.
Caravella also defended the use of tear gas, saying it broke up the crowd and protected police.
“I was thinking some of us might not make it out okay,” Caravella said.
The following day, police said they were better prepared. Authorities said more shots were fired at them, along with bottles and rocks. Police then decided to fire more tear gas into a crowd that refused to move.
Caravella said the decision to use tear gas must be made by an officer on the scene with a rank of captain or higher. According to Caravella, one of the pivotal points in the police response occurred when St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson elected to remove city SWAT teams and then criticized the operation. Caravella said many officers in Ferguson resented what Dotson did.
Caravella said the mood calmed when Captain Ron Johnson with the Missouri Highway Patrol took command of security. However, violence later returned and police used tear gas again. Caravella also credited peaceful protesters who worked to calm emotions and protect police.
Caravella told News 4 there is no excuse for the heavy handed and abusive behavior of some police who were patrolling Ferguson, but he called the overall police response a success because he said nobody was seriously injured or killed as a result of police tactics.