CRIME

State trooper tries to keep peace in Ferguson after county police clash with protesters

  • Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, right, talks to a group of men outside a market, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, where teenager Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars before being killed by police nearly a week ago in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson identified the officer whose fatal shooting ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a box of cigars. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, right, talks to a group of men outside a market, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, where teenager Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars before being killed by police nearly a week ago in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson identified the officer whose fatal shooting ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a box of cigars. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)  (The Associated Press)

  • Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, left, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon take part in a news conference Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Nixon assigned protest oversight to Johnson after violent protests in Ferguson erupted in the wake of the fatal shooting of  Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, left, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon take part in a news conference Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Nixon assigned protest oversight to Johnson after violent protests in Ferguson erupted in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)  (The Associated Press)

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson's commanding presence has captured international public attention.

But when it comes to keeping the peace in the St. Louis suburb where a white police officer shot an unarmed black teen to death, Johnson knows that his neighbors' opinions matter most.

The 27-year patrol veteran grew up down the road from the neighborhood where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed. He was placed in charge of Ferguson security after Gov. Jay Nixon revoked county police oversight.

The barrel-chested Johnson is a former high school football player who looks the part. Yet his approach in Ferguson has been one of compassion rather than intimidation.

Protesters and politicians credit him with almost entirely defusing nightly violence marked by angry encounters between protesters and police.