'Riot King' Brian Rossomanno's Business Had No License in St. Louis, City Says

Dec 1, 2017 at 11:34 am
Sgt. Rossomanno (shown on November 30, 2014) first landed on protesters' radar following the death of Michael Brown. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Sgt. Rossomanno (shown on November 30, 2014) first landed on protesters' radar following the death of Michael Brown.
The company owned by controversial St. Louis Police Sgt. Brian Rossomanno has been in business since 2010. But has it ever paid the city's earnings tax?

After the Riverfront Times began raising questions about 0311 Tactical Solutions' licensure with the city — and what staffers in the city license office say is a lack thereof — Rossomanno insisted to us that the company has filed the necessary paperwork and paid the required taxes.

But Rossomanno refused to provide any paperwork or even the license number that would back up his claims. And, records show, the police supervisor filed in the last month paperwork creating two new private security and consulting firms, including one immediately after the Riverfront Times raised questions with the city about his ventures.

Known as "The Riot King" for his role in protests around St. Louis, Rossomanno has long run 0311 Tactical Solutions as a side business, offering militaristic training and providing security to some of the city's most-prominent institutions, including Busch Stadium and the Muny theater, according to the company.

But 0311 Tactical Solutions has become almost as controversial as its leader in recent months. Activists protesting police brutality claimed that the combat-ready mentality taught in some of the company's courses bled into the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's response to demonstrations following the acquittal of a white ex-cop accused of killing a black man.

Rossomanno, who helps command the department's Civil Disobedience Team, or "riot police," has often been on the front lines of the protests, heaving canisters of tear gas at activists and blitzing them with pepper spray. His staff at 0311 Tactical includes multiple city police officers.

He was featured in October in an RFT cover story.

In early November, following activists' complaints about Rossomanno, Alderwoman Heather Navarro told the RFT that she had been informed by Mayor Lyda Krewson's staff that city police officers had been temporarily barred from moonlighting for 0311 Tactical. Krewson and police refused to confirm the order, describing it as a "personnel" matter. (They also didn't attempt to refute it.)

Sgt. Brian Rossomanno (center, no helmet) stands with riot police on Sept. 15 at the edge of Euclid Avenue. - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Sgt. Brian Rossomanno (center, no helmet) stands with riot police on Sept. 15 at the edge of Euclid Avenue.

But in the days after Navarro publicized the city's apparent order, Rossomanno began registering new businesses with the city.

Records show that on November 7, five days after our story quoting Navarro was published, the state granted a license to a new company called C3 Services Group, a limited liability company with a stated purpose to "provide security and safety training and consultation." The organizer was listed as Rossomanno's older brother, a mechanical designer named Brett Rossomanno. But where the form asks for a contact, Brian Rossomanno's 0311 Tactical Solutions email is listed.

C3 Services Group was granted a city business license on November 21. And while the company owner is listed as the elder brother, the paperwork again bears the fingerprints of Brian Rossomanno, the police sergeant. The home address listed for Brett Rossomanno actually belongs to Brian Rossomanno, and the same goes for the phone number, according to public records. A second phone number listed on the form for Brett Rossomanno is the number for 0311 Tactical Solutions.

Strangely, what the city doesn't have is a business license for 0311 Tactical Solutions. Three separate employees for the city's license collector office looked at the request of the RFT and each came up empty.

Lee Goodman, legal counsel for the department, says that all but a specific set of exempt companies doing business in the city are required to have a license, and 0311 Tactical Solutions doesn't seem to qualify for an exemption.

"They would need a business license based on what I see," Goodman says.

Off-the-books businesses are sometimes difficult to find, especially if they don't have a physical storefront, Goodman says, but the department dispatches its field unit to investigate when they get inquiries. In response to the RFT's questions, he said he would have the unit check out 0311 Tactical Solutions.

Should inspectors discover a business operating without a license, the city would typically go after them for unpaid fees, he said — a move that could escalate to a lawsuit or being cited by police.

One of the reasons for a city business license is to ensure companies are paying the required city earnings tax. The RFT asked Rossomanno whether 0311 Tactical Solutions had paid that tax. In response, we received an email from the company's general email account that was attributed only to the company.

"Our business license with the city is valid and our earning tax is paid in full, several months early we might add, since we fulfilled our contract schedule for the year," the email reads in part. "Thanks for the concern though."

In our email, we'd asked about the formation of C3 Services Group. But the company's reply claimed that 0311 Tactical Solutions had not formed any other companies and wouldn't comment on what "other companies do or how they do it."

In follow-up emails over the next two days, 0311 Tactical Solutions continued to insist the company was fully licensed, with taxes paid, although it refused to provide any documentation or a business license number.

"And last we checked, we aren't required to give you anything," an email reads. "You're [sic] obsession with this topic is concerning. There is so much going on in this city these days, and this is your focus."

A supervisor in the earnings tax office says that tax records are not subject to open records law and declined to provide any information about whether the company had paid the earnings tax.

However, Goodman says the license collector's field unit did reach Rossomanno on November 27 and was told 0311 Tactical Solutions had ceased to operate.

The next day, records show, Rossomanno filed paperwork for another new company, the similarly named Tactical Solutions.

Rossomanno didn't answer our questions about Tactical Solutions, but in a follow-up email from 0311 Tactical Solutions, the company acknowledged being contacted by the city — or at least someone claiming to be from the city.

"Sorry for the multiple emails, but we'd also like to know how you claim to know the content of a phone conversation between Mr. Rossomanno and someone claiming to be calling from the license office who used what we have reason to believe was a fictitious name," the email says.

The company ignored our question about why Rossomanno would think the caller used a "fictitious name."

The company did eventually concede to knowing something about C3 Services Group, claiming that it was allowing the new firm to "use our space until such time they have their own." And it offered a vague explanation for the paperwork that appears to show heavy involvement from Sgt. Brian Rossomanno.

"Again, separate companies, separate owners, different missions," the email reads. "Them being hesitant to use their personal information is understandable since a clerk in the city's license office is clearly using his official position to disseminate information."

Throughout the email exchanges, the company has continued to insist it has a valid city business license, despite what the city says, and that it has paid its taxes in full.

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to correct a misspelling in the headline.

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