Shiloh businesses close over rumors of civil unrest

Metro East police departments are increasing patrols

Shiloh Police officers chat in the parking lot of the Shiloh Target, which has closed due to threats of looting and violence on social media. (O’Fallon Weeekly photo by Kate Stater)

By Angela Simmons, Weekly Editor

Businesses in Shiloh closed down due to threats of looting on social media. Police in Shiloh, Fairview Heights, and other Metro East towns were made aware of the situation.

The threats of looting stem from the murder of George Floyd, 46, by a Minneapolis Police Officer George Chauvin, 44, while in police custody, an event that was video-recorded. Chauvin was fired by the department and as of May 29, was charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. Protests and unrest, including looting and burning, erupted in Minneapolis and protests have occurred in several cities worldwide, including nearby St. Louis, where most recently, Highway 44 was shut down overnight.

Shiloh Police Sergeant Sean Joy said “We were tipped off to chatter on Facebook, and the city of Shiloh was mentioned. Our largest shopping area is the Green Mount Plaza, so we increased patrol, and then we informed all of the businesses and left the decision up to them. As of now, most have closed, including Target and Dierbergs, but there are some food places still open.”

Sgt. Joy said “People are understandably upset.”

Rumors on social media ran rampant that the Fairview Heights Target and other businesses were closing, but Fairview Heights Police Sergeant James Mason said “That is not true, it is business as usual in Fairview.”

While there is a police presence, the Fairview Heights Target remains open for business. (O’Fallon Weekly photo by Kate Stater)

He did say the department performed shift change with at least 10 vehicles in the Target parking lot because of the rumors of looting, so people may have been responding to seeing an increased police presence.

“There were statements on social media from individuals upset about the current situation, but we do not believe they are substantial. We’re taking it at face value. It doesn’t mean that people won’t come out and exercise their First Amendment right to protest- that doesn’t concern us. What concerns us is when those protests turn angry and violence ensues. Obviously, we want to use caution, and we will protect our businesses and our residents,” said Mason.

Sgt. Mason confirmed that several Metro East businesses in multiple towns were named.

In O’Fallon, FlamentCo’s The Place has suspended deliveries for the evening as a cautionary measure over the threats, and several other businesses are making decisions.

Many police departments have condemned the actions of Chauvin, who had previous instances of violence. O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook released the following statement about Floyd’s death, saying “The tragic death of George Floyd while in custody by Minneapolis police officers has sparked outrage across the nation. As I watched this disturbing video, I, much like you, was overcome with emotions of anger, frustration, and confusion as to why these things are happening. As law enforcement officers, we swore an oath to serve our communities with compassion, dignity, and respect. George Floyd was not afforded any of these rights. There is no place for abuse in our profession and police leaders must stand up and confront these failures.

As your Chief of Police, I want to assure you we do not tolerate the brutal and negligent behavior observed in the video by the Minneapolis officers which led to the death of George Floyd. We pride ourselves on being one of the most thoroughly trained police departments in the area. We train and emphasize the importance of using of de-escalation tactics to reduce the potential for confrontations that endanger law enforcement officers and community members. As stated in the 10 Shared Principles, we value the life of every person and consider life to be the highest value. This is one of the tenants of our policing philosophy.

We have worked hard for many years to build relationships and trust within our community. Incidents like this can tarnish the dedication and reputation we have worked so hard to build. I do not want the reckless and horrific actions of four Minneapolis police officers to define our profession and our department. I implore you to continue working with us to make O’Fallon a community we can all be proud of and call home.”

Sgt. Joy urges residents to use caution, and to stay home and let the police handle anything that may arise from the threats.