Charlie Dooley, the long-time head of St. Louis County government, is sorry.
In a rare showing of humility and apology from a public official after the death of Michael Brown, Dooley went off-script at the Economic Development Partnerships luncheon Thursday to take responsibility for the traumatizing violence that gripped Ferguson in August -- and for the still-fuming public anger that led to it.
"I want to apologize to this community," Dooley said. "This happened on my watch, and I take it very seriously."
He singled out Brown's family, especially his mother, to apologize.
"To Michael Brown's family, I can't even imagine what they're going through," Dooley said. "No child, no mother, should feel that their child is not of value in this community. That is unacceptable. So I am going to take full responsibility for that. I was the county executive these last eleven years, and we should have done a better job in the training, sensitivity, diversity and talk[ing] about things that are real."
Dooley asked St. Louis to focus on improving economic opportunities in struggling neighborhoods like Ferguson and on improving the schools he says are "failing" black students -- not on finding someone to blame.
"If you want to blame somebody, blame Charlie A. Dooley," he said. "Don't blame yourselves. Be part of the solution."
The key to moving forward, Dooley said, is embracing diversity.
"Let's figure out, how do we move forward, how do we get new leadership, how do we get more people involved in our community -- not 'theirs,' not 'them,' but ours," Dooley said. "When we talk about immigration, diversity, folks, it is about all of us. That is what this great country was founded upon, people thinking different, looking different but being in one country."
Dooley lost last month's primary election, so for the first time in eleven years, he's not on the campaign trail to keep his county executive title. Steve Stenger, who decisively won the Democratic primary, now faces anger from Ferguson protesters who don't trust the architect of his win, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch.