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Highway police take control over all police operations in Ferguson

Published time: August 14, 2014 14:42
Edited time: August 14, 2014 20:45
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Scott Olson)

Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Scott Olson)

The governor of Missouri relieved St. Louis County law enforcement from policing the ongoing demonstrations in the town of Ferguson, putting Highway Patrol in charge instead.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Thursday that he has directed the state’s Highway Patrol to provide security to the town, where outrage continues to erupt following the officer-involved shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager, on Saturday.

“We’ve all been deeply troubled by this crisis,” Nixon said, adding that the current crisis unfolding in the state “is not what Missouri is about.” He acknowledged that Ferguson looks “like a war zone” lately, and said, “We need to rebuilt the trust that’s been lost” in the wake of Brown’s death and the use of police force on demonstrators.

Nixon added that the Highway Patrol’s involvement will not affect the responsibility of those involved in conducting investigations into the killing of Brown and the protests that have taken place since his death. He confirmed that the Department of Justice is conducting a parallel investigation.

Nixon also touched on the controversy surrounding police refusal to identify the officer involved in Brown's death. In response to a question at the press conference, Nixon said the official's name should be released as “expeditiously as possible.”

Previously, Rep Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) told Bloomberg News on Thursday morning that Gov. Jay Nixon, also a Democrat, had confirmed to him that county police will be pulled from their duties in Ferguson.

On Wednesday evening, protests in Ferguson for the fourth straight day appeared to resemble a war zone when militarized police began firing tear gas and non-lethal ammunition into the streets towards private residences. Two journalists, one from Washington Post and another from Huffington Post, were briefly detained while on assignment.

“The gov. just called me and he’s on his way to St. Louis now to announce he’s taking St. Louis County police out of the situation,” Rep. Clay told Derek Wallbank, a reporter for Bloomberg, early Thursday.

Earlier that afternoon, US President Barack Obama said during a press conference that he has spoken with Gov. Nixon and Attorney General Eric Holder, and had instructed federal officials to do everything they could to investigate Brown's death and keep the situation in Ferguson calm. According to NewsChannel 5, the Justice Department will also be spending special prosecutors to Ferguson to assist in the investigation.

The FBI has previously acknowledged that it is investigating Saturday’s shooting death, and Rep. Clay issued a statement on Monday with other members of Congress urging federal agents to expand their probe.

“In light of the foregoing developments, we ask the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting of Michael Brown, looking at both the facts of the specific incident as well as the potential for any pattern or practice of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department," reads a portion of the statement, signed by Reps. Clay, John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio).

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