Capt. Ron Johnson Breaks Ferguson Curfew Promise

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson has won the hearts, minds and trust of many in Ferguson, Missouri, who are upset over the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown as well as local law enforcement’s response to protesters.

But the man of the people broke a direct promise he made on Saturday when officers and SWAT under his control broke up the night’s demonstration using military-like vehicles and tear gas while enforcing a midnight curfew.

Johnson insisted at a press conference earlier in the day that those methods would not be used.

“We won’t enforce it with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gas. We’ll communicate. We’ll talk about, you know what, it’s time to go home,” Johnson told a boisterous crowd.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced a state of emergency and the midnight curfew following a second night of looting on Friday.

Despite the midnight expiration, police began moving into formation at around 12:30. SWAT and riot police armed with rifles lined up surrounding several police trucks. (RELATED: Ferguson Declared A State Of Emergency)

An officer also warned protesters several times over a bullhorn that they would be arrested if they did not disperse. Officers advanced slowly towards the crowd before firing off tear gas.

Officers arrested seven people but were not as heavy-handed as they had been on other nights. But the use of the gas and the trucks undermined the promise made by Johnson, who mingled with the crowd earlier in the evening. (RELATED: Capt. Ron Johnson Criticizes Ferguson Police Info Release)

It was initially unclear whether tear gas or smoke was volleyed. Police spokesmen on the ground told reporters there that the anti-riot agent they were using was merely smoke.

But several reporters tweeted pictures of the canisters they picked off the ground which showed that riot CS smoke was being used.

CS smoke is also considered a tear gas.

Johnson later admitted in a press conference held shortly before 3 a.m. that police had fired both smoke and tear gas, but said that the tear gas was utilized in order to gain access to a man who was shot in the leg by a protester and not as part of the curfew enforcement. 

Johnson said that another man stepped into the street carrying a handgun and that someone shot at a police car. 

A Vice News reporter who was recording the night’s action also said he felt the repercussion of a bullet whizzing past his head. 

Johnson, a native of Ferguson, was appointed on Thursday to lead the force replacing Ferguson and St. Louis County police following several days of heated standoffs between officers and protesters. The law enforcement agencies justified their heavy police presence as a legitimate response to looting which occurred on Sunday.

“We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together,” Johnson said at a press conference Thursday when his appointment was announced.

Follow Chuck on Twitter