The time bomb that was Ferguson, Missouri, was defused Thursday thanks to the presence and leadership of Capt. Ron Johnson of the State Highway Patrol.
On Thursday, amid unrest over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the St. Louis County Police Department would be relieved from duty. Control was turned over to the Missouri State Highway Patrol with Johnson at the helm. The move came after the department's extreme tactics made headlines across the nation, with reports detailing unjust arrests as well as demonstrators being injured by rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray.
He told troopers to remove their gas masks. Then he marched alongside protestors, holding their hands and listening to their stories.
“I’m not afraid to be in this crowd,” he said while walking with the marchers gathered in the St. Louis suburb, per The Washington Post.
“When I see a young lady cry because of fear of this uniform, that’s a problem," he also said. "We’ve got to solve that.”
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Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol walks along with the Ferguson march. Compare this to Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/Vtezu4MuHk
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 14, 2014
— Erin Delmore (@erindelmore) August 14, 2014
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 14, 2014
— Brian Rokus (@BrianRokusCNN) August 15, 2014
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 15, 2014
— Nick Bilton (@nickbilton) August 14, 2014
Cpt. Johnson WALKED in the march. "We're all in this together...we're not in this for fear, to intimidate." pic.twitter.com/cAaCViwBB1
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Here is your new police leader, MHP Capt. Johnson, who was hugging and shaking hands with protesters as they passed. pic.twitter.com/PyaDkLleI9
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 14, 2014
Johnson, a native of the area and an African-American, is the commander of the Missouri Highway Patrol's Troop C, which is located in a large district that includes the city of Ferguson.
He told protestors Thursday evening that the issues facing the city have hit close to home for him. "I've got a son that deals with the same thing," Johnson said.