Facts on Ferguson

michael brown, ferguson, missouri

Michael Brown assaults store proprietor shortly before the deadly confrontation with Officer Wilson

Everyone at one time or another has experienced a battle between what we will call your “head” and your “heart.”  There are times when most of us can justify the use of one over the other, and we can also justify disagreeing with opposing views.  However, when it comes to the law, the “head” and only the “head” can take charge.  Too many of us are allowing our hearts to spout off about the events in Ferguson, but in all of this talking and writing, are we actually reading, listening, or thinking with our heads?

Of course it is beyond sad when someone’s child is dead or killed, but there are still facts involved, and everyone is someone’s child.  Of course it is outrageous when a police officer, dedicated to “protect and serve,” kills an unarmed person, but there are still facts involved, and sometimes an officer is justified to discharge his or her weapon.  Additionally, there are times when an officer can be brought up on charges for NOT using force against a suspect.  Of course questions will arise when it’s a white officer and a black victim, but facts of the events do not take race into account, and you need to stop taking race into account when forming your opinions about what happened – or didn’t happen – in Ferguson, Missouri, this past August and this past week.  Let’s look at some facts.

Fact:  Michael Brown was a legal adult, 6 feet 4 inches tall, and 292 pounds at the time of his death.  He was one inch shorter and 18 pounds lighter than the average NFL lineman.  Watch any football game, look at the lineman, and you have an idea of his physical size.  This doesn’t contribute at all to any justification in either his shooting or the lack of indictment against Officer Wilson.  However, it prevents Officer Wilson from assessing Mr. Brown as a “child.”

Fact:  A short time before Michael Brown was confronted by Officer Wilson, Brown had stolen a box of cigars from a nearby store.  He physically assaulted the store owner.  The owner called the police.  Officer Wilson was aware of that situation.

Fact:  Officer Wilson correctly suspected Brown of that robbery and physical altercation.  Brown perfectly matched the description NOT because he was black but because of his clothing, his red hat, and the person who was with him during the theft.

Fact:  Some witnesses had said that Officer Wilson, while sitting in the police car, was attempting to attack Brown, who was standing outside the car.  They also said that Wilson attempted to pull Brown into the car.  When it was time to testify to the grand jury, those witnesses changed their story.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.

Fact:  Some witnesses had said that Brown was reaching into the car and fighting with Officer Wilson.  When it was time to testify to the grand jury, those witnesses told the same story.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.

Fact:  Some witnesses had said that Brown was shot while running away from Officer Wilson.  When it was time to testify to the grand jury, those witnesses changed their story.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.

Fact:  Some witnesses had said that Brown was shot while charging towards Officer Wilson.  When it was time to testify to the grand jury, those witnesses told the same story.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.

Fact:  Some witnesses had said that Brown looked as if he was going to attack Officer Wilson.  When it was time to testify to the grand jury, those witnesses told the same story.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.

Fact:  An autopsy report showed a presence of HTC in Brown’s blood.  It was determined that Brown had been using marijuana within only a few hours of the incident with Officer Wilson.  If that were not true, the grand jury would have responded to that report.  Using marijuana is not a reason to shoot someone, but it is a reason to suspect impaired judgment.

Fact:  Brown was a legitimate suspect in a crime.  Multiple witnesses and physical evidence support that Brown, when confronted by Officer Wilson, reacted with violence towards the officer.  Violence against a police officer is a felony.  Once Brown began to run, he was classified as a “fleeing felon.”  In most cases, an officer can justifiably use deadly force against a fleeing felon.

Fact:  In a 1985 ruling by a US Court of Appeals, Justice Byron White of Tennessee stated the following:  “Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force.”  This does not make the shooting death “okay.”  But it does make it within the law and takes responsibility away from Officer Wilson.

Fact:  According to the grand jury’s ruling, Officer Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was aligned with the statement of Justice White.  Officer Wilson was within the law to use deadly force in order to prevent the escape of or to stop the charge from a suspect who had already presented and was still demonstrating a threat of serious physical harm.

140820_JURIS_ConstitutionFerguson.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

Conclusion:  The death of Michael Brown is a tragic situation that happens too often and with similar results.  The best way to protest these kinds of shootings is not to target one’s immediate surroundings.  The best way to protest these kinds of shootings is to take the necessary legal steps to change the law that allows police officers to use deadly force in these situations.  Officer Wilson acted within the law.  Change the law, and you can change future indictments.

 


37 thoughts on “Facts on Ferguson

  1. Spot on, Rich. Additionally, but not within the scope of your post, is that fact that nothing justifies the destructive rioting, burning, and looting after the verdict came down. Almost all black deaths are caused by other black, generally in drug-related violence. Attempting to deal with these issues, difficult as they are, is more to the point and would save more black lives.

    janet

  2. I think your cartoon – ill-thought out as it is – is actually an accurate description of a black man’s options. Either with the hands up (submissive), or breaking the law in order to try and get ahead. That’s what happens when you suppress an entire demographic.

    Michael Brown may have taken the latter option, might even have been a violent criminal, but he was unarmed and didn’t need shooting, not six times and twice in the head while he was bent over. He had already been shot and was running. If at that stage he turned to face the his armed pursuer I wouldn’t blame him. What would you do facing death?

    • you’re right about the cartoon. accurate but drifting into a different aspect, and i should change it. thanks.

      as for the running – the problem is that he was running towards officer wilson. what would i have done? i would have not done all of the things prior to being shot. i’ve been pulled over, removed from my car, cuffed and tossed in the back of a police car. why? i had a headlight out. i’m not comparing my situation to michael brown’s, but i am comparing what to do – exactly what you are told – regardless of one’s innocence or guilt.

      • You’re right that you should comply with officers of the law, especially as they are as corrupt and violent as they are in the States.

        I’ve seen a video of a cop pulling over a black guy, asking him to retrieve his license, and then shooting him when he complies – so as an aside it’s not surprising that black people are not so eager to comply with officers, when you consider the daily grades of injustice that must go on between that extreme and the few officers who are actually respectful.

        So, although we should comply with the law, when people don’t that doesn’t automatically make the officer their judge and executioner.

        There are a number of things the government could change to avoid situations like this. First of all the gun was Wilson’s only partner. What police need is to always have a human partner.

        Beyond that, they need training in tackling large and difficult suspects. The reports say that Wilson’s first words to Brown were something like “get to the fucking kerb” – that kind of antagonism is so whole-heartedly incorrect from an officer and can descend into situations like this one, as shown.

        Next, if officers are to carry lethal weapons, they need to be highly trained in them and instructed to use only lethal force when there is no other option. If Wilson felt truly threatened enough to use his weapon (and I’m not saying he didn’t), he should have had the skill and wit to use the weapon only to the necessary level. A single shot to the leg or gut is enough to put down an unarmed man. To fire and continue firing into a man’s skull when he’d doubled over is not good enough.

        In the UK they carry only batons and pepper spray, but they are highly trained, first of all in dealing with tough customers psychologically, then with taking down people using only the necessary force. US police could use some of that training.

      • there will always be rogues, bad apples, and those who stretch the boundaries of their profession. however, the acts of officer wilson – while tragic – were not outside the law. regardless of that, those protesting need to recognize that michael brown was not an innocent victim. by robbing a store and attempting to choke the proprietor, he only attracted the attention of law enforcement. and by not complying with the officer’s directive and attempting to beat up the officer, he only made things worse.

  3. First, I say let’s not take any advice from the UK.
    Second, great piece up till the conclusion. Why do we need to change laws. Police officers, for the most part, are good people who have decided to put their lives on the line to protect communities so they need every possible way to protect themselves and not worry about an indictment. The bad apples out there will get weeded out through the process.

    So what say me? I say, don’t break the law and you won’t get shot.
    FBF

    • the only reason to change the law is if you don’t like the lack of indictment for officer wilson. however, if you’re okay with no indictment, then there’s nothing to do except whatever it takes to not get shot. thanks for the “great piece.” and thanks for reading.

  4. In every statement, article, post, opinion, survey, etc, there is an agenda. That doe not mean the intention is to mislead, it means we just do. 2 more facts: witnesses are notoriously unreliable, and no two witnesses ever tell the same story – never. A constant reference to itnesses in every case is dodgy by default. My fact number 2. This police officer clearly was not up to the job. No question about it. What was he doing there? Why did he act like an armed citizen under attack? Both point to a lack of training. The result was a failure in policing, nothing else. And it was, whatever argument anyone wants to come forward with.

    • no two witnesses can see the same thing because no two have the same physical perspective or location, agreed. a reference to witnesses is not dodgy IF the forensic evidence supports it, which in this case it does support those who supported the officer.

      what he was doing there was stopping a suspect in a reported theft. as for a lack of training, that is questionable only because, like in education, if a student fails a test, did the student not prepare or did the teacher not prepare the student? that can go either way.

      • Lack of training = emptying a magazine into someone. You mean he was standing on the road, unprotected, ready to stop people for suspected theft, unprepared for any reaction? This is the police force that tear gassed reporters from a news agency and broke their equipment. Lack of training is clearly symptomatic across the board, given other highly publicised incidents. This is a police force that is not in control and does not understand containment – that is hardly my opinion. It is pretty clear. As for lack of training of this police officer, well – a body down fiull of bullets is not a successful outcome. The guy was unprofessional – to put it mildly.Defendimg his lack of professionalism raises other issues.

        Witnesses are not reliable for many reasons. This was no test. He failed. The prive paid for that failure is relatively high, but neither your business nor mine suffered, so it is still possible for you to go into denial.

      • yeah, but no. your comment includes several suggestive implications that i did not make. i don’t choose to attempt to defend myself against something i didn’t say.

  5. As you know, my youngest son is a Port Authority Police officer! You wouldn’t believe what some people do, posing a threat to others and to the police….he has only been on the job for a couple of months and the few stories that he shared with me would make you appreciate all that the Police do to protect us….they have to make split second judgments between life and death, theirs, the passengers on the plane, the people in the terminals, etc…..unless the general population understands this and has experienced this, they need to be supportive of the police and not jump to conclusions….I would not want to have to think that at any split second during my day, I had to make that kind of a decision. Our officers are highly trained to serve and protect…all…including themselves!

  6. And now we have Tamir Rice – TWELVE YEARS OLD. Tall for his age, yes, but still unarguably a kid – shot by a cop who was scared and operating on a hair trigger. I absolutely agree that it is time and past time to reassess how our police are trained (because whatever training they’re getting, they’re clearly not up to the job), and what they are trained to do (starting with, just when is “deadly force” appropriate? Because it seems at present to be their first choice when faced by any threat).

      • Yes. And what is there left for the cops to say. “Oops – my bad”? I am bewildered by the silence … All the noise still seems to be coming out of Ferguson. I don’t understand why. Have we run out of outrage?

    • Lots of Monday Morning quarterbacking on this issue. Try being a cop. I never have but I cannot imagine the stress. Put yourself in a situation to get shot and there is a good chance you will. I know that if I was a cop and felt threatened, I’m shooting first and asking questions later. These people have families and friends that they want to get home too and they are putting themselves on the line every day. ARE YOU???

      I saw this amazing guy on CNN and MSNBC … NOT … check out his video from my blog …
      https://freebyforty13.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/change-real-change-not-obama-change/

      Now why isn’t this guy on the major networks? Why does Al Sharpton have the ear of the public and the media? We need change, but it starts with people taking responsibility.
      FBF

      • i know that i could never be a cop. not only could i never bring aggression against anyone, but i would run and hide at the first sign of aggression. more and more “people” are bringing aggression against the police, so i can understand how they’d be on edge and ready to shoot. too many people just don’t care about their own lives, so they don’t think twice about taking someone else’s, especially a cop’s life.

        i don’t disagree with you at all, but i also know that there are innocent people who are misinterpreted as doing something wrong. and that cops have the unfortunate assignment of trying to sort it all out and protect their own lives in the process.

      • Actually, in a different phase of my life, I did put my life on the line, and I did put myself in situations where I could have been shot or hurt in other ways. But that isn’t the point. If a person is going to react in panic to a perceived threat, they don’t belong in a position where they are expected to take control, and they especially don’t need to have a firearm handy. Yes, being a cop is scary. But they choose that life; it doesn’t just happen to them. And if they can’t cope with stressful situations, either the wrong people are getting the job, or they’re simply not being adequately trained. And then they screw up and no one holds them accountable – today yet another grand jury refused to indict a policeman who killed someone by taking him down in an illegal hold. So, yeah, I agree with you. People need to start taking responsibility. And I, for one, would very much like to see the cops who kill people being held responsible.

      • It was not an illegal hold. It was against the NYPD policy but not illegal. And, according to other experts, if you are in a choke hold, you cannot speak. The man you are referring to was on tape saying he could not breathe. These are facts that, unless you listen to others outside of the mainstream, we never hear. Also, this man was overweight and had asthma. No doubt the incident brought this on but it sounds to me that it was not the sole cause. The grand jury must have also seen it that way. If you think the cops are not paying the price or being held accountable, you are wrong. Officer Wilson is now out of a job. Maybe he should be, but maybe not. His life is tarnished because a thug much bigger than him came after him. Did he panic? Maybe. But we don’t know. We were not there.

        So, we undermine law enforcement. We second guess them at every step. We put them in harm’s way and don’t allow them to protect themselves. We will have anarchy. Not good.

        Again, concern yourself with the innocence that is lost if you want to get outraged over something. Another fact that I heard and this is important because people are making this out to be a black white issue. In 2012, roughly 130 blacks were shot and killed by white cops, but roughly 330 whites were shot and killed by white cops. Three times as many whites killed. Let’s stop with the blame game and start encouraging criminals to change. To me, I want thugs and criminals and would-be criminals to think twice. I want them to think, “if I challenge the law, if I approach an officer aggressively, I may die.” Maybe then, people with criminal tendencies will turn the other way.

        FBF

  7. I imagine it is immature for me to think that the only situation that would justifying killing someone is if they were directly threatening to kill you, which would be a proposition hard to argue against in that it transcends whatever laws are in force. I do come from a different culture from most of the writers above and therefore may not be aware of the accepted morality regarding this question in Ferguson.

    • unfortunately, these situations always seem to be divided along racial lines. if that’s organic or orchestrated by television, i’m not sure. on CNN, the invited guests from the legal profession all seem to side with which race they are part of. i find that disturbing and possibly selfish. however, i can’t deny that if i were on the panel, my thoughts would be equally classified by those same lines.

  8. Why isn’t anyone talking about the thousands of black people who are shot by black people???? Or the women and children caught in the crossfire of drive bys and gang violence??? Where is the outrage over that? Not all cops are good, but most are. You try putting yourself in the line of fire every night.
    FBF

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