JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Ahead of a legislative hearing planned Wednesday night, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon defended his administration’s handling of the unrest in Ferguson following the release of a grand jury’s probe in to the shooting of Michael Brown.
“None of us were happy there were shots fired or building were burned down. This wasn’t a joyful time for everybody,” Nixon said. But, he added, “on the hierarchy of things, human beings come before buildings,” Nixon told reporters.
Local leaders, including Ferguson’s mayor and police chief, had criticized Nixon for not sending more National Guard troops in more quickly on the night the grand jury’s decision was announced. Nixon said he made a decision to let local and state police be the “spear on the edge,” not troops.
“American soldiers pointing their weapons at american citizens that were unarmed is not a good thing,” Nixon said. “These folks were trained to kill, that’s what soldiers do.
“Don’t mix the idea that a police officer with years of experience right in that hot zone that summer dealing with all of the issues could better maintain safety than bringing a combat veteran trained top point his or her M1 and pull the trigger,” he continued. “I’m not happy bout losing some buildings, but there was a great deal of discipline shown by all people involved on that. Control was garnered rather quickly.”
The joint legislative committee was set to meet at 6:30 p.m. Nixon hedged when asked whether he would allow members of his administration who were involved to testify.
“We’ll be glad to cooperate,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to look at exactly what they want.”
On the same day, Nixon announced that at least one of the police leaders involved in the state’s Ferguson response – Highway Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle — would be stepping down. Nixon said the talks about Replogle’s decision to step down, which will take place in March, began a few weeks ago.
Nixon and Replogle denied that the decision, which will go into effect in May, had anything to do with Ferguson.