The U.S. government allowed police in Ferguson, Missouri to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace for nearly two weeks in August for safety reasons.
But audio recordings show that local authorities wanted to keep news helicopters away instead.
On Aug. 12, amid demonstrations following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Federal Aviation Administration managers struggled to redefine an earlier flight ban so police helicopters and commercial flights at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport could fly through the area – but not others.
“They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police Department in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. “But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.”
At another point, a manager at the FAA’s Kansas City center said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”
The statements contradict claims by the St. Louis County police, which said the restrictions had nothing to do with limiting the press and instead were imposed due to gunshots fired at a police helicopter.
According to county officials, there was no damage to their helicopter but they were unable to provide a report on the shooting. The flight restrictions remained in place until Aug. 22.
Check back for updates.
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