Officer in charge promises "a new day" in Ferguson, Mo.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson talks to people during a demonstration in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 14, 2014.


FERGUSON, Mo. - Two days after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, the new man in charge of keeping the peace in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting said it was the beginning of "a new day" in Ferguson, Mo.

"You're gonna see a bunch of smiles, a bunch of hugs, a bunch of conversations - that's what you're going to see from me," said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Johnson, who is black, has been appointed to head security in the Missouri town where tension has been high since the August 9 shooting of the unarmed black teen by a white Ferguson police officer, who has now been identified as Darren Wilson. On Wednesday night, St. Louis County Police in riot gear riding armored vehicles clashed with protesters and journalists and images from the Missouri town resembled a war zone.

The next day, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon took the St. Louis County Police off the job and handed the reins to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Last night, there were no arrests.

"Last night was a great night," said Johnson. "People were talking to each other, inspiring each other."

Johnson pledged to "ensure the safety of the people of Ferguson" as well as their right to gather and peacefully protest. He said he understood the "inner anger" over Brown's death and police tactics, but warned, "we have to make sure we don't burn down our own house...that does not help."

Johnson took questions, talked about his own children, and quoted from the Bible during the press conference, which took place just hours after Ferguson police released the name of the officer who killed Brown. Authorities also released surveillance images and a police report indicating that Brown may have stolen cigars from a QuikTrip convenience store just prior to his death.

Before wrapping up the press conference, Governor Jay Nixon stepped in to praise Johnson, saying he "didn't want to be critical of anybody" but that bringing the highway patrol in "made a very positive difference over the last 18 hours."

Finally, Johnson signed off, telling the crowd, "I'll see you guys tonight down at the QuikTrip."

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for