Mo. State Highway Patrol to take over security in Ferguson [UPDATE]

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told the congressman from Ferguson, Mo., that he plans to relieve local law enforcement of their duties.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Aug. 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM
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FERGUSON, Mo., Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Update: 4:30 p.m. EDT

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced his decision to hand over security responsibilities in Ferguson to the State Highway Patrol after the St. Louis County Police came under deep criticism for their heavy-handed reaction to protests Wednesday night.

Nixon said MSHP Capt. Ron Johnson will oversee the process. Johnson is African American, and said he grew up in the community.

"I grew up here, and this is currently my community and home," Johnson told reporters at the conference. "I understand the anger and fear the residents of Ferguson are feeling and our police officers will respect both of them."

Nixon said the change would not affect who would conduct the investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown, nor would he release the name of the officer who shot him.

Original post follows:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will remove St. Louis County police from Ferguson, after five days of clashes between protesters and cops in riot gear showed no signs of slowing down.

Nixon, a Democrat, told Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., that he would pull county police from their duties in Ferguson, which could open the door for state or federal involvement.

"The governor. just called me and he's on his way to St. Louis now to announce he's taking St. Louis County police out of the situation," Clay said, according to Bloomberg's Jon Allen.

St. Louis County police have been deeply criticized since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by an officer on Saturday. Protests have grown dramatically in the five days since as officials have refused to release the name of the officer involved and showed up to demonstrations in full riot gear, lobbing tear gas canisters and firing rubber bullets. Police also made a number of arrests, including two reporters on assignment.

According to Bloomberg's Jon Allen, who spoke with Rep. Clay, Nixon did not say whether he would instruct state police to take over or ask the FBI to come in, nor did he clarify whether that included the official investigation into Brown's death.

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