As controversy continues to rage over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said on Sunday that he disagreed “deeply” with the release of a video allegedly depicting Brown robbing a convenience store, and was not informed of the tape before it was unveiled by Ferguson police.
Ferguson, Missouri police chief Thomas Jackson came under fire this week after he approved the release of a video allegedly showing Brown stealing cigars from a shop. Ferguson residents and people across the country have decried the timing of the tape’s release, especially since the events of the video — which the U.S. Justice Department reportedly advised the Ferguson police department not to release — are in no way connected to the incident that resulted in Brown’s death.
Responding to questions from host Andrea Mitchell on NBC’s Meet the Press, Nixon said on Sunday that neither he nor the Missouri highway patrol — which has taken over law enforcement operations in Ferguson — were aware that the video was going to be distributed to press. He said he opposed Jackson’s decision to unveil it while Brown’s death is still under investigation:
MITCHELL: But then the local police chief released that video. What justifies releasing that video about the convenience store while there are still no details about what happened with the shooting itself? That is what caused everything to erupt again on Friday night and eventually led to the curfew being imposed?
NIXON: We and our security team and the highway patrol didn’t know that was going to be released, and I don’t think the Attorney General knew that. Quite frankly we disagree deeply I think for 2 reasons. Number one to attempt in essence to disparage the character in the middle of a process like this is not right. It’s just not right. And secondarily it did put the community and, quite frankly, the region and the nation on alert again. These are old wounds, these are deep wounds in these communities and that action was not helpful.
Mitchell later pressed Nixon on whether or not Jackson should be fired his actions. Nixon wouldn’t say, but noted that he understood how the timing of the release was insensitive — especially to Brown’s family:
MITCHELL: Well then should police chief Jackson be fired or have to step down?
NIXON: Rest assured we’ve had very serious discussions about that action and how much we thought that was not the right way to handle the victim’s family, which I had a chance to speak with. They were deeply troubled. When you see your son gunned down in the street and then you see a police chief begin an attempt to attack his character, that’s just not the way to operate and we’ve made that clear to everyone.
Nixon has attempted to restore peace in Ferguson over the past week, working with highway patrol officer Capt. Ron Johnson to stifle unrest after several days of violent clashes between cops and local protestors following Brown’s death. But after a short period of calm, violence and looting erupted anew this weekend — a shift some say is largely in response to the release of the video. Nixon, who has been criticized for taking too long to address the crisis in the first place, declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and imposed a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew to handle the new wave of turmoil. Some are concerned that the curfew may backfire, but Nixon defended the decision, saying, “If we’re going to achieve justice, we first must have and maintain peace.”