From Afghanistan, Nixon expresses concern over shooting of police officer near Ferguson

Gov. Jay Nixon expressed concern Sunday over the non-fatal shooting of a police officer near Ferguson on Saturday night. Nixon made the remarks while speaking with reporters from Kabul, Afghanistan.

“The officer being shot last night is a challenge, obviously, for everybody,” Nixon told reporters Sunday morning. “Our heart goes out to the law enforcement folks injured last night.”

The Ferguson Police Department said Saturday that the shooting of a police offer in the arm was not related to protests surrounding the police shooting of a Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, by one of its officers, Darren Wilson. Still, the incident comes as the heat continues to rise on Ferguson’s boiling streets while a Grand Jury continues to look into Wilson’s actions.

“Our focus continues to be over the dual lines of safety and speech,” Nixon said, when asked how he thinks the tension in Ferguson can be quelled. “When people cross the line and have violent behavior or act out, that’s something we’re gong to have to watch extremely carefully.”

Nixon said it is “very important” that the ongoing protests in Ferguson are not used by “folks with malicious intent.”

“While we want to make sure we allow people to speak, when they cross the line, endanger fellow citizens or law enforcement, folks can remain confident the rule of law remains respected,” he said.

On Friday, Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle said his agency is “certainly planning for the worst and praying for the best,” ahead of the results of a Grand Jury investigation into a controversial Aug. 9 shooting in Ferguson.

Replogle also offered an unapologetic defense of his agency’s response last month to the rioting in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown. Speaking during a panel at a gathering Friday of the Missouri Press Association, Replogle said troopers in his agency — led by Capt. Ron Johnson — acted properly to keep the community safe and to help lower the tension after the shooting.

“We in law enforcement got critiqued for the way we dressed, but I’m not going to send my troopers into a situation without protection,” he said. “Law enforcement showed great restraint in how they responded to what was going on.”

The questions followed Nixon more than 7,000 miles across the world, where he was speaking to reporters by phone from Kabul, Afghanistan. Nixon left Missouri on Friday morning with three other governors at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Defense, which is picking up the costs of his trip, spokesman Scott Holste said.

“Some solid progress has been made in Afghanistan as we ramp down the number of soldiers out there.” he said. One example? “We’re seeing improvements in the number of kids going to school,” with 40 percent of them being female, he said, a major shift since the era of Taliban control.

Nixon said while in Kabul, he had dinner with soldiers from Missouri. This weekend’s trip marked his fourth visit to the country. Holste said the governor would return to Missouri on Monday.

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