A "no-fly zone" that was imposed over Ferguson, Missouri, amid protests after a white police officer killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August was put in place solely for safety and had nothing to do with limiting media coverage, police insisted Monday.
The Associated Press reported that recordings it obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that local authorities wanted the Federal Aviation Administration to close airspace around Ferguson to stop news helicopters from recording the clashes. One FAA manager said in a recorded telephone call that "they finally admitted it really was to keep the media out," the Associated Press reported.
"At no time did we request that media be [subject to] restricted airspace," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters Monday.
Belmar read a transcript of a call in which a resident told police dispatchers that someone was shooting at a helicopter in the area and played audio of a pilot describing having a laser pointed at his helicopter.
The FAA recommended the temporary flight restriction on its own initiative, Belmar said, "due to concern of the amount of air traffic in the Ferguson area." There were no restrictions above 3,000 feet, the altitude police were flying at, and in fact "there were some media who got permission to do that," he said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest backed that account Monday, telling reporters in Washington that the FAA "took the prudent step of implementing the temporary flight restriction in the immediate aftermath of reports of shots fired at a police helicopter, but within 12 to 14 hours, that flight restriction was updated in a way to remove restrictions for reporters who were seeking to operate in the area."
- AG Eric Holder on Ferguson No-Fly Zone: 'Transparency' Is Good
- Ferguson No-Fly Zone Aimed at Media (Associated Press)
— M. Alex Johnson