Missouri Governor on Ferguson: Our Goal Is to Make Sure Justice Is Served

Gov. Jay Nixon and Police Capt. Ron Johnson held a press conference Friday afternoon.

Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was appointed by the governor to take control of security operations in Ferguson, Mo., walks among demonstrators gathered there on Aug. 14.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Aug. 15, 2014, 8:18 a.m.

After days of dra­mat­ic con­front­a­tions between pro­test­ers and po­lice, Mis­souri of­fi­cials say au­thor­it­ies are try­ing to re­store calm.

“Work con­tin­ues to as­sure the safety and free­dom of people to as­semble and re­spect their views while pro­tect­ing prop­erty and stay­ing safe,” Mis­souri Gov. Jay Nix­on said dur­ing a Fri­day af­ter­noon press con­fer­ence in a mall park­ing lot on Buzz West­fall Drive in Jen­nings, Mo., just out­side of Fer­guson. “Mov­ing for­ward, our goal is to make sure we keep the peace while these par­al­lel in­vest­ig­a­tions are go­ing on, con­tin­ue, and justice is served.”

Capt. Ron John­son of the Mis­souri High­way Patrol said the situ­ation on the ground has changed. “Last night was a great night,” John­son said. “There was no calls for ser­vice. We did not de­ploy tear gas. We did not have any road­b­locks. We did not make any ar­rests. It was a good night. People were talk­ing. People were in­spir­ing each oth­er, and we were com­mu­nic­at­ing a lot bet­ter.”

John­son, who grew up in the area, ad­ded, “I’ve got a son, and I’ve got a daugh­ter. And I want them to be able to walk these streets safely.”

The state­ments come just hours after Fer­guson po­lice iden­ti­fied the of­ficer who killed 18-year-old Mi­chael Brown as Dar­ren Wilson, a six-year vet­er­an of the force. John­son said he will speak with Fer­guson Po­lice Chief Thomas Jack­son, who re­leased the name, later Fri­day.

John­son told Na­tion­al Journ­al he had not seen the col­lec­tion of po­lice re­ports that Fer­guson po­lice provided to the me­dia Fri­day morn­ing.

The St. Louis sub­urb has been the site of protests since Brown’s death Sat­urday af­ter­noon. The ex­act timeline of that day’s events is murky. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports provided by Fer­guson au­thor­it­ies to the me­dia, Brown was lis­ted as the primary sus­pect in a strong-arm rob­bery of a con­veni­ence store early Sat­urday af­ter­noon. Jack­son did not say dur­ing a Fri­day press con­fer­ence what led to Brown’s death some­time after the rob­bery.

What happened dur­ing the shoot­ing is also un­clear. Wit­nesses have claimed that Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot, while au­thor­it­ies have said Brown tried to take Wilson’s gun. Po­lice have not said how many times Brown was shot.

Nix­on said he does not be­lieve the in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Brown’s death has been mis­man­aged by loc­al and state po­lice. The tim­ing of the re­lease of some in­form­a­tion, however, could have been bet­ter.

“I’ve said cer­tain things should have come out soon­er rather than later, but that’s not the point,” he said. “The point is where are we stand­ing here, and where we’re stand­ing here right now, is that new facts are out that wer­en’t out yes­ter­day. But those are not the full pic­ture of any­thing.”

John­son did not re­lease any more de­tails on the shoot­ing, and his re­marks sug­ges­ted he has not been in close con­tact with Fer­guson po­lice Fri­day. Nix­on re­spon­ded de­fens­ively to sev­er­al ques­tions about his where­abouts this week. The gov­ernor, whose re­sponse to the protests has been char­ac­ter­ized as slow, said he has worked closely with loc­al law en­force­ment this week. John­son de­fen­ded Nix­on’s hand­ling of the situ­ation.

The streets of Fer­guson on Fri­day are vis­ibly calmer after days of protests. There is min­im­al po­lice pres­ence, and people are able to drive down streets once blocked by bar­ri­cades. Pro­test­ers hand out dough­nuts and cof­fee. They’re still angry over Brown’s death, but they say they feel able to demon­strate in the streets without threat of ar­rest.

The shift in at­mo­sphere co­in­cided with a change in com­mand on Thursday. Mis­souri of­fi­cials brought in the Mis­souri State High­way Patrol, and pulled off the St. Louis County Po­lice De­part­ment, whose crowd-con­trol tac­tics””tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets””were con­sidered heavy-handed and ex­cess­ive.

The FBI is open­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the shoot­ing. Loc­al and state of­fi­cials are con­duct­ing their own in­vest­ig­a­tion of his death, which could take weeks.

Sev­er­al pro­test­ers shouted ques­tions at Nix­on and John­son on Fri­day. To them, John­son said, clos­ing the con­fer­ence, “I’ll see you guys to­night down at the QuikTrip,” re­fer­ring to the con­veni­ence store near West Floris­sant Av­en­ue that was set on fire Sunday night, when the protests began.

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­stated the loc­a­tion of Fri­day af­ter­noon’s press con­fer­ence. It was held on Buzz West­fall Drive in Jen­nings, Mo.

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