I know. Controversial topic, right? But, there is so much crap going around about what has been happening in Ferguson that I felt the need to write this post just to get my own thoughts in order. There are plenty of unknowns, but there are some things I feel pretty sure about, some I highly doubt and others I am undecided on.
1. Michael Brown was not a perfect, straight-A student with nothing but love in his heart for all living creatures. At the very least, he had probably committed some petty crime. He may have been a bit of a bully. His rap sheet is still sealed, as any offenses he was ever charged with happened while he was still a juvenile. He was barely 18 when he was killed. He was accused of one crime as an adult, the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store. He allegedly stole some cheap cigars.
2. Darren Wilson was not a color-blind, perfect example of Officer Friendly. He had been working at Ferguson for only a few years. The cop shop he worked at before that had serious issues. Basically the entire force was fired and they hired all new people. The reason for this was that the cops could not figure out how to relate to their mostly black constituency without confrontation. There are reports surfacing that he may have interacted poorly with some of his constituents in Ferguson as well. One video allegedly shows him threatening to arrest someone for taking video of him, for example.
3. These two individuals meeting in the street the way they did, with Wilson attempting to throw his weight around (metaphorically) and Brown basically doing the same (albeit more literally) was never going to end well.
4. Wilson did not shoot Brown in the back. He deliberately missed as long as the kid was running away. When Brown stopped and turned around, that’s when Wilson started aiming for his body. This is important, because Wilson is a pretty good shot. Most police departments require shooting qualification on a regular basis, so most cops can hit what they aim at pretty well. But the grouping and spacing of the bullets in Michael Brown’s body show that Wilson could definitely hit what he aimed at.
5. After Brown turned around, and Wilson had hit him with probably at least two to four shots in the arm, Wilson paused. This is the point where things get murky. Wilson says he paused to give the kid one more chance to give up and stop “rushing” him. Maybe so. But, if that was the case, then why didn’t he shoot the kid in the leg, or the torso? Why did he feel the need to shoot him twice in the face? I’m pretty sure a shot to the leg would have stopped him. Also Michael Brown was a big guy. Plenty of real estate to aim at. Wilson went for the head-shot. Twice.
Things like this are never cut and dried. People on the left want to say that Wilson was an evil KKK member who killed Brown just because he was black and for no other reason. People on the right want to say that Brown was a thug and potential cop-killer and that Wilson had no choice but to open up on the kid just to save himself. I disagree with both stances.
There is no way to know what actually happened at Wilson’s car that started the whole thing. Witnesses’ stories conflict. Was Wilson trying to pull Brown into the car? Was Brown trying to take Wilson’s gun? Did Wilson really know that Brown was a suspect in a robbery? Since the robbery report went out while Wilson was out on another call, it seems unlikely. Maybe he heard chatter about it on the radio after he drove away from Brown and that is why he spun back over. Maybe. Why did Wilson not call in the shooting? It seems that St. Louis dispatch heard about it on the news, and when Ferguson was contacted, they reportedly did not know what she was talking about. St. Louis dispatch released recordings of their calls during that time period and there is no mention of the shooting at all. There is a call around noon for additional cars for “crowd control.”
It’s all very confusing.
So, here is what I believe. Wilson may have really believed he had to shoot that kid 6 -8 times, including two shots to the head just to be sure, because he was genuinely afraid. I do not believe that Michael Brown had his hands up in surrender. I do think that he was far enough away from Wilson (25 – 150 ft, depending on who you ask) that Wilson was not actually in imminent danger. I believe Wilson was overreacting due to his irrational fear of black people. I do not believe that he really did have to shoot that man twice in the head just to stop him. He chose the kill shot, not the stopping shot. I personally think that there should have been a criminal trial purely on the evidence of those last two kill shots. At the very least, this man should not be a police officer any more, and certainly not in a racially charged area.
I found Wilson’s interview with George Stephanopoulos a bit creepy. There was no remorse, no introspection, no questions that he asked himself. When Stephanopoulos commented that this incident, killing another human being, was likely to haunt Wilson for the rest of his life, Wilson’s reply was chilling. “I don’t think it’s haunting. I think it’s always going to be something that happened.” Really? You shot a guy two times in the head in supposed terror for your life and it was just “something that happened?”
For Darren Wilson, Mike Brown’s blackness trumped his humanity. He was a monster, a “demon.” Maybe this would be more than “just something that happened” if that were not the case.