A Ferguson, Missouri insurance agency is facing potential financial fallout after owners turned over video from their surveillance camera that police say depicts 18-year-old Tyrone Harris holding a pistol during altercations that disturbed what were largely peaceful protests in the area last weekend.
Harris was shot by police during demonstrations Sunday marking the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, and is in critical condition. He has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action and one count of shooting at a vehicle. His father, Tyrone Harris, Sr., told reporters his son did not have a gun and that he was “running for his life” when he was shot.
The 13-second video was released Tuesday, and was taken from a camera belonging to Solo Insurance Services Inc.
Solo Insurance owner Dan McMullen told Insurance Business America
he isn’t sure whether being associated with the video will harm his business, but did say, “We were busy yesterday. We’re not busy today.”
“I’m worried that people may not want to come around out of fear they’ll be harmed,” said McMullen, who has operated Ferguson-based Solo since 1994. “We have a ton of great customers and I don’t want to close, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Solo Insurance has already faced tough financial realities in the wake of last year’s unrest following Brown’s death. The agency’s windows were smashed and then boarded up, and though McMullen reopened for business quickly, police blocked off many roads leading to his agency during the aftermath of the riots.
Insurance coverage on the office paid to repair physical damages to Solo. More difficult to overcome have been the realities of operating in an area now perceived by many as a hotbed for violence.
“We have about 80 different communities within a 10- to 12-mile radius of us, and many of them now say they won’t come to Ferguson for insurance,” said McMullen. “I had one client just today tell me he had to watch the news to see if he could come down to my office.”
And as any insurance professional knows, it is exactly these kinds of attitudes that can materially harm a business, and for which there is no answering coverage.
“My insurance company isn’t going to give me money because, oh, poor Dan, he can’t get customers to come to his agency,” McMullen said. “They don’t insure against that.”
McMullen and his wife, who together run Solo Insurance Services, say they are committed to remaining in Ferguson and serving their policyholders. To ensure they will be able to do that, the couple has launched a GoFundMe campaign
called “Help Solo” that has raised a little more than $3,900 out of a $20,000 goal.
In the meantime, the couple will continue to serve clients they describe as “people of all races, ethnic groups, creeds and beliefs who have one thing in common: they need car insurance.”
“It wouldn’t be hard for me to leave – I’m 61, I’m near retirement anyway,” McMullen said. “But we have a ton of great customers and it would be hard to leave them.”