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FERGUSON, Mo. – 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.