Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Stumbles on Ferguson Responsibility Question

Does the buck stop with Gov. Jay Nixon?

ByABC News
November 17, 2014, 6:34 PM

— -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who declared a state of emergency before a grand jury decision on a police-involved shooting case in Ferguson, stumbled today trying to answer whether the buck stops with him on any response to new protests.

In a phone conference call with reporters, he was asked if it was his ultimate responsibility how any protests are policed. This is what he said: "We're, um, you know, it a, you know, our goal here is to, is to, keep the peace and allow folks' voices to be heard. And in that balance, attempting, you know I am, using the resources we have to be predictable. ... I don't spend a tremendous amount of time personalizing this vis-a-vis me."

"I prefer not to be a commentator on it. I'm making decisions, as, in a, you know, to make sure we are prepared for all contingencies," Nixon added.

Asked again if any one official or agency is ultimately in charge in terms of a response, he said: "Well, I mean, it a, clearly, I mean, I, I feel good about the, we worked hard, to establish unified command, to allied responsibilities and now with the additional assets provided by my order today, with the National Guard, you know, we have worked through a number of operational issues."

Earlier today, Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard ahead of a grand jury decision about whether a white police officer will be charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Nixon said the National Guard would assist state and local police in case the grand jury's decision leads to a resurgence of the civil unrest that occurred in the days immediately after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

"My hope and expectation is that peace will prevail," Nixon said. "But we have a responsibility -- I have a responsibility -- to plan for any contingencies that might arise."

There is no specific date for a grand jury decision to be revealed, and Nixon gave no indication that an announcement is imminent. But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said that he expects the grand jury to reach a decision in mid-to-late November.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is conducting a separate investigation, has not said when its work will be completed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.