August 17th, 2014
10:22 AM ET

Missouri Governor Nixon on CNN's State of the Union "...across the country, these are deep wounds. And when you scratch them again, they hurt"

Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, spoke to Crowley about the response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Governor Nixon discussed the rationale behind the state imposed curfew in Ferguson, investigations into Michael Brown’s death, and institutional racism.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Gov Nixon on the curfew: “…we knew we had to keep people's property safe and peace in order to get justice here. We can't be distracted from the longer pitch here, and the longer is to make sure that these dual investigations, the Justice Department and the local prosecutor, to get to justice, that they are thorough and done. And I thought that this distraction and folks not feeling safe in their own homes, while protecting the rights of people to protest, was important.”

Gov Nixon on the developing investigation: “I talked to - just the other day to - a long talk with General Holder. Based on that, they put 40 FBI agents working in Saint Louis yesterday in this region yesterday to accelerate that process for that parallel investigation”

Gov Nixon on racism: “We all know there's been a long history of challenges in these areas. And our hope is that, with the help of the people here, that we can be an example of getting justice and getting peace and using that to move forward.  But it's a challenge. It's - there are deep, long-term wounds, and we're hopeful that when justice is had, that this entire process and the folks who have spoken out will be part of an effort to help bridge those gaps.”

 

A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump

 

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED

CROWLEY: Governor Nixon, thanks so much for being here this morning. The man you put in charge of security, Captain Johnson, said after last night that he was disappointed in what happened. There was some violence, some arrests. Did you have any concern when you considered the curfew? Do you have any concern now that it could be counterproductive?

NIXON: Well, I mean, first of all, it's been quite a week. The shooting of Michael Brown, young 18-year-old, in his own hometown, shot down the street, brought emotions out very raw and appropriate.

And as we move through the week, when we saw the militarization of police response, I thought the best thing to do was bring the Highway Patrol late in the week, bring in Captain Johnson, and get involved with it with a less hard look. That went well for - until the second night, and we had some agitation.

Last night's curfew, I think everybody worked well. We're always disappointed when things aren't perfect, but thousands of people spoke last night. Thousands of people marched, and not a single gunshot fired by a member of law enforcement last night, and the members of community tremendous helpful last night to get through what could have been a very difficult night.

CROWLEY: How long do you intend to enforce the curfew? What is the benchmark for lifting it?

NIXON: Well, first of all, we wanted to make sure when we saw that second night late, the clear actions of a few to loot, we knew we had to keep people's property safe and peace in order to get justice here.

We can't be distracted from the longer pitch here, and the longer is to make sure that these dual investigations, the Justice Department and the local prosecutor, to get to justice, that they are thorough and done. And I thought that this distraction and folks not feeling safe in their own homes, while protecting the rights of people to protest, was important.

But we're hoping to - we will meet later this morning with the team last night, get - see how things from their perspective, but we are trying to use the least amount of force to provide people to - the ability to speak, while also protecting the property of the people of Ferguson.

CROWLEY: Do you see the curfew staying in place for the next several days? Is that what you're saying?

NIXON: It could be - we'd like to see it ratcheted down.

What we would like to see - well, that will be judged by the community. And like I say, I was heartened last night by the - you know, there were thousands of people there, and as the curfew approached, it was the local folks helping us.

Earlier in the evening, Colonel Replogle and Captain Johnson marched with folks and listened and talked to them personally there last night. And the local officials had called on me to call a curfew. And the local officials and citizens who were there last night were the greatest help.

And I think that that's going to be part of the healing process, but let's not kid ourselves. This was a horrific shooting. We're not to justice yet, and there will be some - some moments of energy and angst over the coming days and weeks.

CROWLEY: Where are we in the judicial process from the local point of view? When do you expect a case would be ready to present to a grand jury?

NIXON: Well, you have two separate investigations.

I was happy - I mean, I talked to - just the other day to - a long talk with General Holder. Based on that, they put 40 FBI agents working in Saint Louis yesterday in this region yesterday to accelerate that process for that parallel investigation.

I think it's a time the local prosecutor to have the opportunity to step up. I know everybody's working really hard. It's important we get this right. This is a big matter. Clearly, the death of an 18-year-old at the hands of a law enforcement gun is something that's caught a nerve, not just here in Missouri, but across the nation and the world.

CROWLEY: Right, but the...

NIXON: It's important that these - that these be done, but done - done well.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: The question is, Governor, when do you think - it seems to me that part of bringing peace to the streets actually would be some sort of action on the judicial side of this.

Do you have a sense that we could see a local case? I know you're not in charge of the FBI, but a local case here presented to a grand jury this week, next week, a month from now?

NIXON: Well, I will let the prosecutor speak for himself on what his time frame is, other than I know that, when I talked to Attorney General Holder, that the response to that was to bring 40 additional FBI agents into the region...

CROWLEY: Right.

NIXON: ... to accelerate those interviews.

And I think all the folks are accelerating their interviews. But they're going to get this right. And everybody's working really, really hard. This is going to be something that - to get justice, it has to be transparent justice. It has to be thorough justice. And there are a lot of witnesses and a lot of folks concerned about what went down and what justice can be. So I think that - well, I know they're working very hard, and I know that those additional resources yesterday were really felt. And I know that it's time for the local prosecutor to step up. And I'm confident the Justice Department will - with the additional resources and focus here, that General Holder and the FBI and folks are going to get the information and get it to the proper choosing authorities, my sense, in a timely fashion.

CROWLEY: There are complaints and criticisms, as you know, of the Saint Louis County prosecutor that would do this case, Robert McCulloch, saying that his - in previous cases, he has not been aggressive in pursuing police abuse or abuse by police.

Do you think someone else is better suited, would be better suited to push this case forward?

NIXON: Well, he's an experienced prosecutor. And this is his opportunity to step up. I think also in this situation with the justice...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But you're kind of suggesting to me that, thus far, he hasn't. So, that's why I'm asking.

NIXON: Well, they're out doing the investigations, and the charging decisions have not been made.

And everybody understands and he's said in public that they're going to present evidence to a grand jury. So, I think that the dual, parallel investigations of Justice and the local really, really add both a - they just help.

They help tremendously to make sure that all the information is getting out, that it's being done in an organized fashion. And I - like I said, I appreciate the parallel investigation being done by the Justice Department in some situations, I would think with some of the detectives and whatnot.

That's the kind of independent, external, national review and investigation of this that I think will assist everyone in making sure we get to justice.

CROWLEY: Governor, if a civilian had shot another civilian in the middle of a street in broad daylight with witnesses who have already been on television saying that one of the people was unarmed and had his hands up, would that person be in jail right now?

I think, from the street, that's kind of the questions you were getting at that very raucous town hall yesterday.

NIXON: Yes, I mean, there's a tremendous amount of angst about the facts in this case, an 18-year-old, Michael Brown, shot down in the street of his own home area.

And any moment that goes on here is going to continue to build, you know, that angst, until there's some solution at the end.

CROWLEY: Sure.

NIXON: These are legitimate concerns.

But it's important that this - that the prosecutors and the Justice Department get this right. And I think we need to, as a community, focus on peace to get justice...

CROWLEY: Right, but if...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I...

NIXON: ... and to make sure we follow the Brown family's recommendations here, and not - not use this as a flash point, but use this as a point to get justice.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And I - my question is, would another person who is not a police officer have been arrested or charged by now under similar circumstances?

NIXON: Well, I can't speak to just hypothetical cases, other than to say each one is different.

But, as I said before, until the charging decisions are made, until the investigation is complete, there's going to be folks with energy. And that's why we want to continue to maintain the opportunity for people to protest and speak out, while keeping the peace.

And we will continue to make sure, as you saw when we shifted the law enforcement approach here on the security side, to make sure people knew that they had the right and the opportunity to continue to express themselves.

CROWLEY: Right.

And, finally, sir, we are hearing stories now and people talking about decades of police abuse and institutional racism, as it's been called, in and around Saint Louis County, not just in Ferguson, but in other places. Does that come as a surprise to you, those complaints?

NIXON: I mean, across the country, these are deep wounds. And when you scratch them again, they hurt, and whether it's in Ferguson, Missouri, or other parts of the country.

We all know there's been a long history of challenges in these areas. And our hope is that, with the help of the people here, that we can be an example of getting justice and getting peace and using that to move forward.

But it's a challenge. It's - there are deep, long-term wounds, and we're hopeful that when justice is had, that this entire process and the folks who have spoken out will be part of an effort to help bridge those gaps. It's one of the reasons why, when Captain Jackson came in, he came right into the community. He didn't roll up in an MRAP.

Our troopers that are in there, even the colonel of our Highway Patrol were marching with these folks last night. It's very important that our - that our officers of wherever be in the communities and as part of those communities for protection when needed, not feel like an external force.

And I think all across the country, that's a task we have to accomplish.

CROWLEY: Governor Jay Nixon, thanks for your time this morning.

NIXON: Thank you.

END

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

 

 

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