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As Ferguson Fury Continues, Military Presence Questioned

FERGUSON, MO-- Pleas for peace are coming from Ferguson, Missouri, with a tenth straight day of violence erupting in the city.
FERGUSON, MO-- Pleas for peace are coming from Ferguson, Missouri, with a tenth straight day of violence erupting in the city.

"We have to remain focused and we have to remain strong and the violence needs to stop," says Lesley McSpadden.

McSpadden is the mother of Michael Brown. Brown is the unarmed teenager shot and killed by a police officer last week.

Another night of protests is expected as demonstrators demand answers in Brown's deadly shooting.

A grand jury is set to begin hearing testimony possibly Wednesday about whether to indict the officer who killed Brown.

As of Tuesday evening, at least 31 people have been arrested.

That same afternoon, word of another deadly shooting came from the St. Louis area where police shot and killed another young African-american man after officers say he pulled out a knife.

An investigation is underway into that shooting, as the military presence steps up for another night around the area.

Meanwhile, the images of armored vehicles, tanks, and tear gas on the streets of Ferguson, are also raising the question, should local law enforcement have this much military power?

Police in cities from Ferguson to the Ozarks and even Northwest Arkansas, are getting much of this combat equipment free of charge from the Pentagon.

Back in 2013, the Defense Department gave nearly 450-million dollars worth of surplus military equipment to law enforcement across the nation.

That includes departments throughout Missouri, that are now on the ground in Ferguson.

They like to have the fully automatic, they like to have the fast equipment, they like to have the big bad bulletproof because they want to feel important," says John Dollarhite who lives in Christian County.

Many officers there got 20 armored vehicles and hundreds of M16 rifles in recent years.

And in the St. Louis suburb, police and people living in the area say it's quickly becoming a war zone.

The Christian County Sheriff says the military equipment keeps deputies from using deadly force.

But others, along with the ACLU, disagree.

"An M.R.A.P. is a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle. It's built to withstand armor-piercing bombs. This is not something that we need in American communities," says Kara Dansky, with the ACLU.

But , when placed in the line of fire, officers say they're there to serve and protect the people, and themselves.

"Equipping of civilain law enforcement in the united states is not being militarized," says Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle.

"What they're doing is acquiring equipment that ordinarily, they wouldn't have the money to do so in case that type of capability is needed."

"The equiqment is not what militarizes anything or any agency. It's the mindset. It's how do we react to these situations. You can be militarized without having any kind of armament. Or you can be completely armed up and respond appropriately," says Kyle.

An interactive map, courtesy of The New York Times, shows how many state and local police forces actually have military equipment.

Since 2006, the military tools of combat keep landing in law enforcement's hands.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 400 armored military vehicles are in more than 43 states, including, Arkansas.

For a look at the map, click here.


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