Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson aren’t in agreement over the release to the press of a store security video that allegedly shows Michael Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store. Brown, an unarmed Ferguson teen, was fatally shot by police Officer Darren Wilson a week ago, and the shooting has sparked national debate, several demonstrations and police confrontations.
Nixon says the video, released Friday, ignited the flames for more protests in Ferguson, which had started to see a peaceful process Thursday evening. “It had an incendiary effect,” the Democratic governor, who has given control of the police department during the protest to Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald Johnson, said of the video on the CBS show Face the Nation.
The video allegedly showed Brown stealing cigars from behind the counter of an area convenience store and shoving a store clerk who tried to stop him on the way out.
“When you release [a] picture and you clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting, shot down in his own street, a young man, and at the same time, you’re releasing information to try to make it, to tarnish him, then properly, there was a lot of folks that were concerned about that,” Nixon explained. “I do think it flamed it back up and has caused us to have to deal with some of that.”
Nixon, who made the television rounds on Sunday, noted that his office was not informed and had no idea that the video was going to be released.
Jackson’s decision to release the video at the same time that he announced the name of the officer who fatally shot Brown incensed area residents who felt that the police chief was trying to connect the two separate events.
Jackson would admit later that Wilson was not aware that Brown might have been a suspect in the alleged strong-arm robbery when the two encountered each other.
For eight days, Ferguson has seen several violent clashes between protesters and police, who initially responded to the demonstrations with fully militarized tactics. Images of police in riot gear and SWAT vehicles and carrying automatic weapons and deploying tear gas on marchers began to saturate the news. The images were also jarring to the governor of Missouri.
“All of us were thunderstruck by the pictures we saw, I mean, the overmilitarization, the [mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles] rolling in, the guns pointed at kids in the street,” Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “All of that, I think, instead of ratcheting down, brought emotion up.”