Ferguson Police Chief Says He 'Hopes' He Won't Have to Gas More People

The police force is working with the Justice Department to help minimize racial tensions in the city.

Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal had a question for Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson during a press conference Wednesday: "I just want to know if I'm going to be gassed again."

"I hope not," Jackson replied.

Chappelle-Nadal was one of several who were hit with tear gas during a rally Monday protesting the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed young man, last weekend. Officers also fired rubber bullets into the crowds after, they said, some protesters began throwing rocks at them.

"We can't breathe," Chapelle-Nadal wrote during the incident, according to local politics site PoliticMO. "I'm shaking. Kids can't breathe."

In an interview with National Journal, Chapelle-Nadal said she was not satisfied with Jackson's response. "That's a ridiculous response," she said. "I was with 150 kids. We were peacefully demonstrating. I felt very safe with those kids. We received tear gas...and it was excessive."

"I've been to Iraq before, and I don't think I've been faced with fire in Iraq like I've been faced with fire [here]," she said.

Jackson's response came during an expansive press conference with reporters and a few activists, as protests continue to ravage the small Midwestern suburb. Ferguson police are asking—though not demanding—that protesters limit their activities to daylight hours in hopes of cutting down on violence.

The police department has said repeatedly in recent days that while the majority of protesters are peaceful, they are concerned about the gatherings being coopted by a violent few. Last night, after a rally led by Rev. Al Sharpton, for example, a woman was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting. Jackson said Wednesday that the woman was fine and that the injury had been "superficial." It's unclear whether the shooting was related to the unrest over Brown's death, however.

"There needs to be clarity for people peacefully demonstrating," Chapelle-Nadal told National Journal Wednesday afternoon. "We will not be threatened with tear gas or rubber bullets...what they were doing to us was inexcusable."

Another demonstration was slated to begin 4 p.m. local time Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, Jackson said he is working with the Justice Department to ease racial tensions and prevent something like Brown's shooting from happening again in the future.

Although the city is nearly two-thirds black, the police force is overwhelmingly white. "I've been trying to increase the diversity of the department since I got here."¦ It's a constant struggle to hire and retain personnel," Jackson said.

Jackson said he would implement any recommendations by DOJ to help alleviate the problem. "Race relations, that's a top priority right now," Jackson said.

As for returning the city to normal in the short-term, Jackson had few answers. When asked by a reporter how the city would recover in the next few days, Jackson said he was certain that protests would continue, but hoped that all of Ferguson's citizens would recognize that peaceful demonstration is more effective than violence.

Ferguson police plan to meet with Brown's mother for the first time as soon as tomorrow. Jackson said that his department has not yet contacted her, but is working with the NAACP and Justice Department to facilitate that meeting.

Jackson also responded to some online reports released by the group Anonymous and others claiming to show photos of the officer who shot Brown standing over his body, as well as audio recordings related to the shooting. Jackson said that the officer shown was not the shooter, whose name is still being withheld by the department. He added, however, that 911 audio would be released by the department "shortly."

This story was updated Wednesday night to reflect an interview with Maria Chappelle-Nadal.