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Gov. Parson to call up ‘over 1,000 troops’ to ‘stop the violence’ in Missouri

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 131st Bomber Wing and 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, stand in formation during the change of command ceremony of the Missouri National Guard’s adjutant general (TAG), at the Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City, Missouri, Sept. 7, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday he would “strengthen up the National Guard” in Missouri the afternoon after four St. Louis police officers were shot and a former Moline Acres police chief was killed by looters at a pawn shop.

“I’ve called out the National Guard and we’re going to strengthen up the National Guard,” Parson, a Republican, said at his daily press conference. “We’re not going to have police officers, we’re not going to have the citizens of Missouri, being shot in our streets in this state. And we’re going to put an end to it.

“With whatever forces I have as governor of the state of Missouri, whether that’s every member of the Highway Patrol, whether it’s every member of the National Guard, I will call them all out to stop the violence in this state,” Parson said.

Mentioning the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, Parson said, “George Floyd should have never died the way he died. He should not. It wasn’t acceptable for what the officers done, and they need to be held accountable for that.”

He said the people who shot David Dorn, the retired St. Louis police captain who later became Moline Acres chief of police, should also be held accountable.

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“No they’re not protesters. They’re criminals and they’re thugs, and they need to be held accountable,” Parson said. “And hopefully they get hunt down, for the people that done that, for last night. Because it has nothing to do with protesting.”

Parson said he’d instructed the Missouri National Guard Brigadier General Levon E. Cumpton to “call up the guard. We’ll call up over 1,000 troops.”

Parson activated the National Guard on Saturday.

“Your Missouri National Guard is out there, across the state, mobilized as the governor directed last Saturday, to support the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the local law enforcement,” Cumpton said.

He said that while “peaceful, nonviolent” protests are allowed, “we’re going to protect the safety of Missourians, and the property, and we’ll come through this stronger together taking care of each other.”

Sandra Karsten, director of the Department of Public Safety, said overnight a bullet hit the vehicle of a Highway Patrol officer, striking “the riot helmet he was wearing as he was driving to respond in downtown St. Louis.”

Parson said he visited St. Louis unannounced Tuesday to meet with local leaders, including young activists.

“We did meet with some of the young activists,” Parson said. “I did agree to sit down with them and have some meetings with them about trying to see how we move forward. We’ll set that up, so you all can hold me to that.

Asked how he would address racial disparities in policing, Parson said he was committed to working with officials on solutions, but said he didn’t discuss specific policies Tuesday with the activists.

“You’ve got to stop the criminal activity first, before you do anything,” he said. “This is not going to be a simple solution.”

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Parson’s likely Democratic opponent in this November’s election, said in a statement that “inexcusable violence and property destruction … inhibit healing and discount the collective call for justice.”

She called the killing of Dorn was one of several “appalling acts” of violence in Missouri since protests erupted last week.

“Let me be clear — if we are serious about furthering solutions to resolve generations of injustice, violence is not the answer,” she said. “Our children deserve to live in a Missouri that is fair and accountable to all of its citizens, and we must work together on clear policy solutions to make this a reality.”

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© 2020 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch