Governor won`t answer why National Guard plans changed, leaving soldiers on sideline

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(KTVI) - While parts of North St. Louis County burned, hundreds of National Guardsmen waited on the sidelines.

We`ve learned that all 2,200 Guardsmen were in St. Louis area before the Darren Wilson Grand Jury decision.   Not all of them were used, when it appears they were most needed.  Hundreds of them were part of a special force ready to act, yet remained on standby while businesses burned.

During FOX2 live coverage the night of November 25th, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said, 'It`s one in the morning.  There are fires all over North St. Louis County, buildings burning in Ferguson, Jennings, Dellwood, unincorporated North St. Louis County and (the National Guard is) nowhere in sight.  At this point the promise is unfulfilled.'

Meanwhile hundreds of Guardsmen remained stationed nearby.  Video obtained by FOX 2 shows soldiers ready for action inside a building near Lambert Airport.

Here`s a breakdown of the National Guardsmen we`ve learned were in place the Saturday before the Grand Jury decision.

About 900 soldiers were scheduled to work decision night.  Another 900 were scheduled to work the next shift and an additional 400 were part of special force called QRF, which stands for Quick Reaction Force.

On the ground around the St. Louis area on the night of November 25th, we could see a heavy National Guard presence in surprisingly quiet Clayton, but no sign of soldiers in North County.

At 10:54 pm, that night, I contacted Governor Jay Nixon`s office, asking 'Can we get an answer ASAP as to why the National Guard was not deployed to Ferguson?'

We received no answer.  We were not the only ones asking the Governor on November 25th.  We've learned about political leaders and law enforcement representatives who asked the same question, all while firefighters in North County had to back away from blazes because of gunfire.

It was a different picture than one projected by the Governor November 11th. During a news conference he said adamantly, "The businesses and buildings in this region will be protected."

When it didn't happen, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles once again described the broken promise.  During a live interview on FOX 2 he said, 'I assumed (Guardsmen) would be nearby and they would be readily mobilized if needed.'

Later on Tuesday November 25th, Governor Jay Nixon appeared at a news conference saying, 'Like I said before, we had 700 guardsmen in the region.'

He said he would increase the force to 2,200.  We now know that force was already here.

Last week, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told FOX 2 it was the original plan to activate more Guardsmen.  He said, 'I was informed we were going to have National Guard down here like we do now and that certain businesses, public facilities, buildings and so forth were going to be also protected.  The Guard was going to be standing up there as well.'

FOX 2 reporter Betsey Bruce followed up, 'Did that include businesses on West Florissant?'

Jackson responded, 'Yes, absolutely it did.'

Bruce asked, 'When do you think that plan was changed?'

Jackson said, 'I was informed of the change in plans around November 6th.'

That was the week some news outlets reported Jackson would resign.  He did not.  I asked the Governor, during the November 25th news conference, if that was the reason for the decision to leave Ferguson unprotected.  I asked, 'Was your failure to deploy National Guard promptly, specifically to Ferguson, political payback for Chief Jackson remaining?'

Governor Nixon answered, 'No. As I said before, we had about 700 Guardsmen in a hundred locations in the City and County last night.'

Yet another 1,500 remained waiting in the St. Louis area, but not called until after 1 am Tuesday morning.

Now the Governor has stopped talking entirely.  I`ve asked his office for more answers, even sending a specific question about what Unified Command asked for in preparation for the night of the Grand Jury announcement.  His spokesman wrote back, 'Chris, we`re going to decline to respond and to the interview request.'

Follow Chris Hayes on Facebook and Twitter:
Chris Hayes on Facebook
Chris Hayes on Twitter
E-mail chris.hayes@tvstl.com