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Joint Committee Prepares To Investigate Nixon's Response In Ferguson

The Missouri General Assembly's Joint Committee on Government Accountability shortly before their meeting Dec. 11, 2014.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A joint Missouri House and Senate committee is preparing to investigate Gov. Jay Nixon's actions in Ferguson in the aftermath of a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The committee on governmental accountability met briefly Thursday to appoint chairs and discuss their approach. State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said he specifically wants to know why no Missouri National Guard troops were in Ferguson following the grand jury's decision on Nov. 24.

"One of our communities was burning," Schmitt said.  "It is my understanding and my hope that this committee will follow every lead, will uncover all the evidence, leave no stone unturned, until we find out the truth as to why that happened."

Schmitt continued: "In my view, there are a lot of unanswered questions, and the governor of this state, his administration and the people that were advising him, whether they are here in Missouri or in Washington D.C., owe the people of this state answers to those questions."

Another committee member, state Sen. JamilahNasheed, D-St. Louis, said she's going to ask for a subpoena of all records from every state agency involved in responding to the unrest in Ferguson.

"Clearly, there was misconduct," Nasheed told reporters after the meeting.  "Who made the decision to not bring in the National Guard…. Who was talking to whom? Was the National Guard talking to the governor's office? (Was the) governor's office talking to the Public Safety department?"

In addition, committee chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said they'll subpoena the governor to testify, if necessary.

Many of the committee members at Thursday's meeting criticized the absence of National Guard troops in Ferguson the night riots broke out following the grand jury's decision not to indict former policeman Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Brown.  In response, Nixon's press secretary Scott Holste issued the following statement:

"From the beginning, the plan developed and executed by the unified command was to have the guard stationed in support roles at places like fire houses, police stations and power substations so that experienced law enforcement officers could be out policing protest areas.  That night, more than 700 guardsmen were deployed to nearly 100 locations around the St. Louis region, including at the Ferguson Command Post.  There were also nearly 500 law enforcement officers, including 150 state troopers, in Ferguson. The governor has said repeatedly that the violence and destruction that night (were) unacceptable and that he is committed to helping affected communities fully recover. But the fact that no citizens, law enforcement officers or fire fighters lost their lives is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of the men and women who worked day and night to protect the public."

So far, no dates have been set for hearings by the joint committee.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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