Michael Brown, Ferguson and Reality vs. a Narrative

As most folks know, the Grand Jury in Ferguson decided not to return an indictment of Officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. That is not news. What is important is to point out how good an example this is of how groups shade evidence to suit their narrative. There is no doubt that young black men are disproportionately the target of police shootings. How much of that is a function of the amount of interactions young black men have with cops is not known to me. That would be a study I would like to see. It may well be true that officers of all races are more touchy on the trigger with young black men, and if so, that needs to be addressed.

This is an issue that dates back to well before the Diallo case in New York: are young black men more likely to be assaulted by police officers than their white counterparts? That claim needs to be investigated and, if it is true, changes implemented. One thing is certain;there is a group seeking examples of this storyline and they want publicity for these tragedies with the goal of social reform. That is a noble goal, but this case may not be the right example to champion.

There is another group and their narrative is more like this: ” a young black man robs a store and punches a cop and gets shot to death. Why is anyone surprised?” This group hates the first group and their narrative.

The rest of America just wants to know what happened and whether it was fair or unfair, legal or illegal. The New York Times has put together a fantastic compendium of the evidence from the Grand Jury here. I strongly suggest you read the evidence for yourself and compare that to what the various camps are saying.

Here is what I took away from the evidence compared to what i thought after months of listening to snippets from mass media. The media and marchers tend to repeat the narrative that Brown had his hands up, was backing away from the cop and was saying “don’t shoot.” This evidence seems to have come from a few well publicized witnesses. Some of those witnesses also said Brown was shot in the back. The autopsy report confirms that none of the shots were back to front. That casts serious doubt on the credibility of those witnesses.

What is stunning is the fact that there were multiple black witnesses who agreed with the officer. Their testimony is that Brown struggled with the officer through the window of the vehicle seems controverted. The physical evidence backs up the fact that Brown’s thumb was grazed by a bullet in that confrontation and that another bullet went into the door of the cruiser.
So far the evidence is 100%

The question is, what happens next? All seem to agree that Brown ran away from the officer. The witnesses say the officer yelled stop multiple times. This raises a question, should an officer shoot a suspect fleeing on foot? What is the police protocol?

According to the witnesses Brown turns or stops. The physical evidence is clear that at no point was he shot in the back. That would be a clear case of murder.

Some of the witnesses say he then charged at the Officer and that the officer fired one volley of rounds but Brown kept coming. If true, this gives a green light to the officer to keep firing. There is a critical piece of physical evidence supporting this testimony. There are blood splats 24 feet further away from the body and the officer than from where the body was found. That means that Brown was either bleeding from his thumb wound or from new wounds and moved 25 feet closer to the officer. For me this is critical. The victim is moving towards the officer.

The question is then, what about him having his hands up and yelling don’t shoot. At least two of the black eyewitnesses say that is not true that he did not have his hands up. They seem annoyed that such a narrative was being spread by other people who did not see the shooting immediately after the death.

Having read the witness statements and having seen the evidence, I can understand why the grand jury decided not to indict the officer. Michael Brown made some terrible decisions.

1. He chose to get into a fist fight with a police officer in a cruiser.
2. After being shot in the thumb he chose to run away rather than lie down and supplicate himself.
3. After being ordered to stop, he came towards the officer.
4. After being shot he continued towards the officer.

Officer Wilson also made some terrible decisions. His decision to unload almost the entire clip into an unarmed man is excessive. It is easy to monday morning quarterback this decision, but that is the truth. Had he fired a 3 or 4 rounds and made a lucky shot, the situation would be different.

My reading of the facts is this. The Grand Jury should have returned an indictment because there is enough evidence to find probable cause. At the end of the day a jury would likely not have convicted Wilson anyway under the stricter “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, but a decision not to indict here feels more like a shadow tribunal than a public trial. Was the jury verdict any more satisfying in the Trayvon Martin slaying? I don’t know. I do know that there is no happy ending to either story.

Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown did not deserve to get shot to death. That said they both made terrible decisions that put their own lives in jeopardy. I have a hard time believing that if a 300 pound white man had punched a cop in a cruiser, fled after being shot and charged the cop that the exact same Grand Jury decision would have issued. Michael Brown was a fool for doing what he did. He did not deserve to die, but he made some terrible decisions that caused his own death. I hope everyone will take the time to read the evidence and form their own opinion on the subject. The conversation is healthy and there are a lot of officers that are dangerous. In this situation, the reality is Michael Brown could have avoided the entire situation and would be alive today.