In a city torn apart by racial tensions, the fact that black residents took up arms to defend a white-owned store made headlines.
The men said they felt indebted to the store’s owner, Doug Merello, who employed them over the course of several years.
The men said Merello always treated them with respect.
“He’s a nice dude, he’s helped us a lot,” said a man identified himself as R.J. The 29-year-old R.J. said the group chased away several groups of teenagers who wanted to loot the store, but also nearly got into a brush with soldiers from the Missouri National Guard, who initially mistook them for looters.
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The gas station’s owner said the men definitely saved his store.
“We would have been burned to the ground many times over if it weren’t for them,” said Merello, whose father first bought the store in 1984.
While the black Ferguson residents defended the white-owned store, dozens of other businesses were not as lucky. Officials said more than a dozen businesses received “significant” damage as groups of rioters threw bricks, broke windows, and set fires.