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Police Officer Recounts His 13 Days In Ferguson

Captain Ron Johnson discusses how he reached out to people during the Ferguson riots after Michael Brown's death. Read Transcript


- Four years ago today, August 9th

Ferguson, Missouri becamea city rife with riots

that lasted for 13 days.

Out of that chaos rose ahero who bridged the divide

between black and blue byliterally walking across it.

(dramatic music)

- [Narrator] Captain RonJohnson, a 31 year veteran

of the Missouri Highway Patrol

became an unlikely hero in 2014,

five days after the fatalshooting of Michael Brown.

As riots ignited throughoutthe city of Ferguson,

Captain Ron was appointed by the governor

with a seemingly impossible task

of restoring peacebetween an angry community

and the local police.

In his memoir 13 Days in Ferguson

Captain Ron recalls the turbulent days

and nights he encountered

while helping to stabilizethe city of Ferguson

and how his faith sustainedhim through it all.

- Welcome to the 700 Club.

Captain Ron Johnson it'sgreat to have you here, Ron.

- Great to be here, it's an honor.

- You know this was, reading your book

just took me back there like that.

It's been four years

but that was such an unexpectedoccurrence in every way.

In what happened between Michael Brown,

the young man who was shot,

and the reaction that happenedafter that in middle America.

Tell me what that waslike for you at that time

as you came upon this.

- I couldn't believe it.

It seemed like it wassomething out of a bad dream.

That this could not behappening in my community

or in our country.

- Yeah and then it seemed,as you wrote in the book,

each day instead of waning, it escalated.

Were you surprised by that?

At some point did youthink it was just going to

kind of die down and then you'd have

to pick up the pieces and go on?

- No, I think the first day

that I walked down thestreets of Ferguson I knew.

I said there's somethingthat I had never seen before.

And I looked up to Godand I said how are we

going to make it through this?

- What was so shocking I think for you

was that you didn't hearuntil you were in the middle

of a press conference,not your press conference,

it was the governor's,

that you were gonna be putin charge of all of this.

And that had to be shocking.

I mean, tell me what youwere feeling at that moment

as you hear him say and I'm gonna give

the leadership of all ofthis to Captain Ron Johnson.

- Well the first thing thatcame to mind was God, why me?

- Yeah, I think we all would've said that.

But then what, then what?

- But then after I foundout and after I walked

and went back to Fergusonand got on the streets,

I didn't ask God anymore why me.

Because it didn't matter why me.

But I was glad that it was me.

- [Interviewer] Yes.

- And I looked at it as an opportunity

and a humbling moment.

- Boy the press just landed on you

right after that announcement was made

and wanted to know very directly

what are you gonna do that'sgonna be any different

than what's been done so far.

How did you decide what to do?

- Well initially theysaid what is your plan.

And I wanted to say well Ijust found out 30 minutes ago

that I was gonna be in charge.

- [Interviewer] No mercy.

- But I said I'd do something different.

And so then after I leftthat press conference

I knew that I neededto go back to Ferguson

and walk the streets and hear the voices

and see the faces tounderstand what I needed to do.

- So what happened asyou walked the streets?

Tell me how things began to unfold.

- Well I walked the streets

and the first time I get to the march

everybody did not want me to march.

But then I walked down the street

and this lady comes out ofthe crowd with a big hug.

- [Interviewer] Yeah.

- And it was kinda likean angel had come out

and I would later find her name is Angela.

(interviewer laughing)

And then after that hug I walked down

and a group of ladies askedme if they could pray for me.

And at that moment I just felt

that I was going to be okay.

You know, people ask whydidn't I wear my vest.

And I said that I didn't need that vest

because I felt I already hadthis shield from that prayer.

- You know, you understand of course

in a riot scenario why it's necessary

for people involved in keeping the law

to wear protective gear.

But it does really, I'm not suggesting

that people shouldn't whena riot is taking place,

but it does really separateyou from the population.

And hearing their hearts,having them able to speak to you

about their concerns.

I mean part of what was I think so

just angering to people was the fact

that Michael Brown'sbody lay in the street

for four-and-a-half hoursafter he'd been shot.

But that was because of fear.

I mean people were afraid to,

people that normally wouldgo in and remove the body

were afraid to do that.

How do you overcome things like that?

- And that was true,that's a true statement.

But also I think that you have to say

that you can understand the pain.

Because I'd ask myselfwhat if that was my son?

- [Interviewer] Amen.

- And so sometimes, noexcuse is good enough.

And I still believe to this day

that we shoulda done something different.

- [Interviewer] Yeah.

- And that no one'schild should lay there.

- Well, hindsight's always 20/20

but when things happen like this

where they're so explosive, in some ways

somewhat predictable but thiswas the community that ...

I mean you grew up there.

- [Ron] Right.

- This was the community in middle America

where people went to work,

where they went to church on Sunday,

where parents were involved in the lives

of their children.

I mean it wasn't a place where

this kind of thing normally happened.

But you say in your book early on

and I think this is suchan important statement

for us all to consider,that everyone has bias.

And having the bias isn't the issue,

it's what you do with it.

How do you speak to thatin our culture today?

There's so much angst it seems

racially, a lot of racialtension in the country today.

What do you say topeople after experiencing

what you experienced?

- You know I say that we couldfind value in each other.

And those things that we see and we hear,

we need to try to experience those.

And know there arelessons that we can learn.

And those are things that we can embrace

that will make us better.

And I agree, we all have 'em.

But it's what we do with 'em.

I think we learn from those.

I think we need to seeeach other for who we are.

- It was interesting to read and hear how

you had to contend with that early on

because of course you'reinvolved in a force

with people who are black,people who are white.

And under the tension andstress of the situation

and even being elevated to the position

that you were of taking charge,

you kind of see some of your friends

fall by the waysideand things come forward

that I think maybe youdidn't even realize existed.

Or maybe hoped didn't in your relationship

with some of the peoplewho are white on the force.

I mean you had to swallow some stuff

in all of that and move on.

What is it that we shouldall learn from that,

take into account?

Not be easily offended tobe able to do something

that matters in the midst of it all.

- Well I would say thetoughest part of the road

is the middle part of the road.

And sometimes we all have to get on

that middle part of the road.

- [Interviewer] Yeah.

- And reveal ourselves and give us, yes.

And try to pull things together.

But you know, people are gonna see us

for who we are.

And I think for me I walkedthat middle of the road

and I think peoplewanted me to take sides.

And I didn't wanna do that.

And I think for me to take sides

would've been selfish as me, as a leader.

Because I needed to takewhatever came with that.

Whether that was criticism.

You know, I say today that some people

see me as a traitor onboth sides of the road.

But I'm okay with thatbecause my main mission

at Ferguson and being in command there

was to make sure that on both sides

everybody got to go home.

And there was no blood on my hands

and another life was not lost.

- And sometimes when youwalk the middle of the road

you gotta, no matter what'sgoing on in your heart

or your stomach, you just gotta walk tall.

And your dad really setthat example for you.

And you name some other leaders over time

that have done the same.

And I'm sure you must'vefelt a sense of that

as you walked down the middle of the road.

As you were seeking to bring some peace

and some resolution to some of this.

Are you teaching your kids those things?

Are you ...

- I do, we talk about just keep walking.

- [Interviewer] Yeah.

- And I think I'm still on that journey.

I don't know where it's going to lead me.

But I'm still walking.

- [Interviewer] Yeah.

- To try to make that difference.

- I mean in a sense, in theworld that we live in today

we all need to be walking that journey.

One day, one step at a time.

It's an amazing book.

It's so well-written Ithoroughly enjoyed it.

And I think you will too.

Captain Johnson's book iscalled 13 Days in Ferguson.

It'll take you back to four years ago

when this event occurred.

And it'll also challengeyou in your thinking.

Just as a person that's a citizen

of the United States andwhat our role needs to be

in being part of thecommunity of citizenship here.

You can also hear more ofCaptain Johnson's story

and the social exclusiveinterview on our Facebook page.

Go to Facebook.com/700club.

Ron, thank you.

- Thank you very much.

- Yes.

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