On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 12th, a group of Homeland Security agents checked in to the Drury Plaza Hotel in Chesterfield, Missouri. The following day, many more agents arrived, an estimated eighty in total – so many that the covered parking area seemed to be filled with white, government vehicles. Any of us would have been curious about the large gathering of federal officers but, as curiosity generally kills the proverbial cat, it will also get you fired.
Enter Mark Paffrath – Hotel employee, U.S. Navy veteran, and now the most recent addition to America’s unemployment rolls. While leaving work on Thursday, November 13th, Mark snapped a few photos and a quick video of the large collection of government vehicles occupying the hotel’s parking lot. Mark then uploaded the photos and video to his Facebook page along with the question – “why are all the cop cars here… I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson” – referencing the still shaky situation in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson P.D. officer Wilson. While protests in Ferguson continue and a Grand Jury decision on whether or not Wilson will face charges looming, the connection seems to be a rational train of thought in this community only 25 miles from Ferguson.
During his scheduled work shift on Friday, the hotel’s manager, Jeff Baker, demanded that Paffrath remove the photos from his Facebook page. Paffrath complied and went about his business for the remainder of the day. On Saturday, Mark Paffrath was fired by the hotel chain’s Director of Security, Jim Bohnert. Paffrath claims that during his termination he was called a terrorist by Bohnert, Paffrath also claims to have been informed that his posting of the photos nearly cost the hotel the $150,000 contract with the DHS personnel currently at the hotel.
Paffrath is not going quietly. After his termination, he re-posted the photos to his Facebook page and the ensuing frenzy has seen his story told in local, state, and national media in the last 24 hours. Although the hotel is probably well within its rights to terminate Paffrath for violating the confidentiality of its customers, the question remains – why are so many DHS officers in Chesterfield? According to Paffrath, the agents are registered for an 18 day period. Perhaps before they leave the area someone will be able to shine some light on the subject.
I am looking into this situation and have been exchanging correspondence with Paffrath over the last 24 hours. I will keep you all updated on what I discover. At this point, it is too easy to say this is related to Ferguson. It may not be related to it at all. DHS often holds meetings and conferences all over the country and Paffrath has indicated to me that the license plates of the vehicles currently at the hotel are all, or at least all that he saw, from outside of the state of Missouri. With the revelation that Missouri’s governor placed the National Guard on stand-by today in anticipation of the Grand Jury decision, a connection to Ferguson would not surprise this writer in the least. I did find it strange that the meeting of these agents takes place in Chesterfield, which is also home to a contractor who has worked with DHS on various communications projects in the past. It is just as likely that these agents are in Chesterfield to attend some sort of training or updates on previous training dealing with communications and tracking equipment. If I figure out which it is, I will let you all know.
Here is a link to a short video on the subject by Argus Streaming News VIDEO
In the meantime, we have a young veteran who is now looking for work. If you have any connections in Missouri and may be able to help him out, you can find Mark Paffrath on Facebook at the following link – Mark Paffrath