Did the Police in Ferguson Lie on Day 1?

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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78 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    I’m willing to believe that Mike Brown was 25 feet away because the cop was able to hit him more than once.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      I have little interest in defending cops in general, or Ferguson cops in particular, but didn’t one or more witnesses state that Brown stayed on his feet for quite a bit after being shot (the phrase “dead man walking” sticks in my head for some reason)?

      Or was that another questionable claim made by the police to support an initial questionable claim?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m not intending to defend the cop on this at all, for the record. I’m just thinking about it and I’m pretty sure that if Mike Brown was 100 feet away, there is no way that the cop could have hit him twice, let alone six times.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, he probably DID fire like a kabillion bullets, at a fleeing unarmed suspect, as you do. Law of averages and all that. There are probably dozens of bullets in the surrounding trees and landscape.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph @jaybird

        Bodies can absorb some damage before stopping. Big guys can absorb a lot of damage. As I’ve said before, many times, getting shot isn’t like the movies or TV. You don’t fall over dead from a single shot unless it is a good head shot or heart shot. Hits anywhere else, even center of mass hits, and it might be a few moments before the body succumbs to the damage.Report

  2. zic says:

    These are interesting points; but they all rest on the notion that the officer was at his car; yet isn’t the story that he’d gotten out and was following? If so, doesn’t that suggest that the measurements in question are Wilson to Brown, not car to Brown?

    But even here, I’m fully willing to accept that it may have been more then 25 feet or 35 feet. Without a physical evidence, beyond absent gun-powder burns, I don’t know how one would determine the distance between the gun and Brown, and I don’t know how far Brown might have continued walking back after being initially wounded. The more damning thing to me is that the fatal shot appears to have happened when he was falling, face-forward.Report

  3. Chris says:

    There are two issues here:

    1) Yes, it looks like the police did lie. Brown was much more than 35 feet from the vehicle.

    2) King’s analysis is wrong on the reason: as even King admits in that string of Tweets, Wilson followed close behind Brown, and shot him from closer than 35 feet away, so his speculation as to why the police lied (because of the regulations about distance) don’t make a lot of sense.

    My own suspicion is that they lied to make it look like they were much closer to the initial confrontation than he was, or that he had run and then turned around and come back to get that close (which is Wilson’s official story, as ludicrous as it is).

    King (whom I follow on Twitter) is a bit of a snake oil salesman who does Self Help seminars and a crowd funded book (that has yet to materialize despite the fact that he’s made several promises to funders). He tends to find these sorts of conspiracies everywhere, often out of ignorance of the way things work. Yesterday, in fact, I got into it with one of his fans because I pointed out that his claiming a conspiracy in the “delay,” as he calls it, of the grand jury investigation until January is actually a renewal of the grand jury’s term until January, the maximum allowed by law, because the grand jury’s term expired on September 10th. Without the renewal, they’d have had to start all over again with a new one.

    All that said, I follow him because he follows what’s going on in Ferguson really closely, and can be an invaluable source of information. Basically he has a lot of facts, but is bad at interpreting them, as (1) and (2) above and the grand jury renewal issue demonstrate. So I recommend reading what he says about the facts, and ignoring the way he reads them.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

      I’m with Chris. King makes a big deal about the distance between Michael Brown’s body and the police SUV, but the SUV is not the policeman. As the description King himself reprints says,

      [Officer] Wilson trailed about 10-15 feet behind, gun in hand. About 90 feet away from the car, the worker said, Wilson fired another shot at Brown…

      So if Brown’s body was 100 feet away from the SUV, and the witness’s statement that the officer was 90 feet away is accurate, then Wilson could have shot Brown from as close as 10 feet. (I’m not suggesting he was that close–I’m just talking about the facts as presented by King.)

      The witness also said Brown’s back was turned, so this is in no way an exoneration of Officer Wilson. But King’s claim that Wilson shot Brown from 100 feet away sounds like unvarnished bullshit, based on his own set of tweets. Maybe King didn’t bother to read the report he reposted.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Chris says:

      Thanks for this, Chris.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    To the extent that we rely on eyewitnesses’ descriptions of distances and times, I’m going to have to take it with a grain of salt: people are really, really bad at those kinds of estimates.

    That said, the idea that a cop might throw in some CYA lies on a shooting report would shock me not even a tiny little bit. Indeed, I sort of presume that such a report contains facts at least shaded to exonerate the officer of culpability.Report

    • Chris in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Really we don’t need the eye witnesses. The video of the body with the police SUVs and cops walking around in the immediate aftermath shows pretty clearly that Brown was more than 35 feet away (I’m not sure how far he was, but 100 feet doesn’t seem unreasonable, as it’s really not very far).Report

  5. archon41 says:

    According to the new eyewitness accounts, the best account of which may be found in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Brown fled, with Wilson in pursuit, and then stopped, raising his hands. With a distance of only 10 feet between them, Brown advanced on Wilson, who began firing, as he retreated. Lowering his hands, Brown advanced 25 feet before he fell, 4 feet from the officer. The witnesses say they did not hear Wilson instruct Brown to halt. According to the Dispatch, however, they were 50 feet distant. CNN has recently come up with some notes made by a reporter who interviewed one of the witnesses. It indicates they were 40-50 yards distant. It is certain Wilson will testify he instructed Brown to halt or get on the ground. The question now becomes whether Wilson might reasonably have believed he could not safely allow Brown to get within lunging distance. Having just been assaulted by the 290 lb. Brown (who presumably feared that he was being detained for “strong-arm robbery”) so forcibly as to result in the discharge of his weapon, Wilson will prevail on this issue, hostile eyewitness testimony notwithstanding. Those witnesses are resident in a community seething with hostility to the police, and were complicit in creating the myth that Brown was an exemplary youth, an inspiration to all. That devastating video of his atrocious behavior guarantees that all doubts will be resolved in favor of Wilson. According to the Dispatch, 71% of St. Louis County Whites say he shouldn’t even be arrested.Report

    • Chris in reply to archon41 says:

      The witnesses I’ve seen have conflicting or uncertain accounts of whether he a.) came toward Wilson and was then shot, or b.) was shot and stumbled toward Wilson. If I’m not mistaken, the most recent witnesses to come to light, the two construction workers, both suggested that he stopped, turned around, began to raise his hands and said “Okay, okay, okay” (and possibly “don’t shoot”), at which point Wilson several rounds. Brown then began to stumble forwards, with his arms down around his stomach (it’s likely some of those shots hit him in the arm), and was then shot twice in the head, causing him to fall on his face, dead.

      No witness whom we’ve heard from has said that Wilson said anything to Brown, and all suggest that he shot at him from behind, and again while he was putting his hands up.Report

      • archon41 in reply to Chris says:

        The “new witnesses” I referred to above are the White construction workers, interviewed before they were aware that Brown had just assaulted Wilson, inflicting on him an injury requiring hospital attention. Again, you have to go to the Dispatch for the whole story. Other accounts omit Brown’s 25 ft. advance on Wilson, which is crucial. It takes a tall man 10 strides to cover that distance, far too far to inadvertently “stumble.” Hostile intent may be reasonably inferred, raised hands or no (and they were quickly lowered.) I don’t know that this account is inconsistent with Brady’s, who was trying to get to the door as events were in progress. It seems that Wilson’s weapon did discharge inside the SUV. (Dorian says he saw blood spatter.) Wilson then fired on Brown as he fled, pursuant to his authorization, under Missouri law, to use the degree of force he deemed necessary to prevent the escape of a violent, fleeing felon. To make a clean breast of it, I do not assign the weight of Sacred Writ to the representations of Dorian, Piaget and Company. Few do. According to the Dispatch, 71% of St. Louis County Whites believe Wilson shouldn’t even be arrested. Factor in the “undecideds,” and you have a lopsided polarity here.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Do you have a link?Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Chris says:

        It’s worth repeating what I wrote a few weeks ago here. There is agreement on all sides on the following:

        1. There was some sort of physical altercation at the police car door, though there is dispute as to who started this (I don’t see how this much matters).
        2. During this altercation, Wilson fired a single shot at Brown that may or may not have grazed Brown in the shoulder.
        3. After this shot was fired, Brown fled.
        4. While Brown was fleeing, the police themselves have acknowledged that at least one, possibly more, shots were fired, but claim (quite plausibly) that those shots missed.
        5. After this shot(s), there is also agreement on all sides that Brown stopped and turned around.

        So the claim that Brown was charging Wilson rather than trying to surrender rests on the assumption that Brown – who had nothing more than marijuana in his system, hardly a drug known to cause aggression and also not a drug for which testing is good at showing actual intoxication levels:

        (1) Got into a fight with a police officer
        (2) Disengaged with the police officer after the police officer fired a shot at him
        (3) Started to run away, but stopped after one or more additional shots were fired and missed.
        (4) But instead of being scared that he’d be killed if he didn’t surrender, he decided that the time was ripe for him to turn around, run by himself AT the officer who was shooting at him, and renew the physical confrontation that he was fleeing in the first place.

        I think anyone has to admit that this is completely and utterly implausible even if you believe Brown was a career criminal (and he wasn’t, but the point is that this is irrelevant). The only way it’s plausible is if Brown was either suffering from extreme, Miami face-eater level, mental illness or was on PCP*. Not one person has ever said that Brown suffered from that kind of mental illness, and the toxicology reports did not show any traces of PCP.

        Now I’ll concede it’s plausible that, in the heat of the moment, Wilson perceived Brown stopping and turning around as the beginning of an attempt to charge him. If so, I don’t think that would have been a reasonable conclusion for him to reach, but when officers are insufficiently trained, “reason” can too easily give way to “gut instinct” in the heat of the moment.

        But it’s more fun to blame the victim than acknowledge that cops are just as fallible and capable of evil as the rest of us. And, well, we probably shouldn’t so easily overlook that, at minimum, the police chief lied at the press conference about the distance between the car and the body, even if that doesn’t necessarily say anything about the distance between Wilson and Brown when the shots were fired.

        *It’s actually not plausible if he was on PCP, as the violence inducing effects of PCP are greatly exaggerated from my understanding, but for the moment I’m willing to assume that PCP could make someone have this level of aggression.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        There was this guy once, you see this scar?Report

  6. archon41 says:

    Regrettably, I can’t post links. The Dispatch article about the construction witnesses is styled “Workers who were witnesses provide new perspective on Michael Brown’s shooting,” (Jeremy Kohler, 9-7-2014.) Here’s a direct witness quote: “After the third shot, Brown’s hands started going down, and he moved about 25 feet toward Wilson, who kept backing away and firing.” Again, the witnesses say that Wilson fired only AFTER Brown advanced on him, from a distance of 10 feet. He had only to stop, to avert the last, fatal shot.

    You will find a copy of the witness note, with diagram (showing the witnesses 40-50 yards distant) in Construction workers describe police shooting of Michael Brown, Fox2now, Chris Hayes, 9-8-2014.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      That account doesn’t help your theory at all, actually. The quote you’ve pulled is taken completely out of context, for starters, but more importantly, the key phrase is “after the third shot.” Not before, after.

      That means that Brown had his hands up for at least one, and possibly as many as three shots (depending on how you interpret the reference in the article – it’s either the third shot after Brown put his hands up, or the third shot overall, with the first two shots being fired before Brown put his hands up). It was only after he was struck that his hands went down – and, well, I’d imagine it’s not terribly easy to keep one’s hands up in the seconds after being shot.

      But it’s even more damning in context, because this is the paragraph immediately preceding the quote:

      Wilson, gun drawn, also stopped about 10 feet in front of Brown, the worker said.

      Then Brown moved, the worker said. “He’s kind of walking back toward the cop.” He said Brown’s hands were still up. Wilson began backing up as he fired, the worker said.

      Walking, not running, not charging. Walking. And walking with his hands up, the universal sign of “I surrender and I’m not a threat to you.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        What’s more, the 25 feet occurred after he’d been shot and was stumbling forward.Report

      • archon41 in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I’m pleased to see we agree on something: Wilson fired only AFTER Brown began his advance, from a distance of only 10 feet, and you can bet Wilson has already testified to the grand jury he instructed Brown to halt. Too bad the arm shots didn’t stop him in his tracks. The defense will have great fun with your “universal sign of surrender.” Raised hands in no way negate the ability to lunge, strike, or attempt to grapple.Report

      • That, too, Chris.
        @archon41 You’re forgetting about the acknowledged fact that at least one shot was fired while he was fleeing, and that he was quite likely suffering from at least one wound by the time he stopped.

        You’re also ignoring the congruity of the accounts indicating that, when he stopped, Brown said “OK, OK, OK…” while putting his hands up, again a universal sign that he was giving up.

        But where’s the evidence that, with Brown standing in front of Wilson with his hands up, Wilson gave Brown any instruction whatsoever? The accounts seem unanimous that no instruction was given.

        So, here’s Brown, with his hands in the air, and possibly with a shoulder wound, getting no instruction. There’s no evidence that he’s ever had a gun pointed at him before. What’s he supposed to do, knowing that he’s about to make a life-or-death decision? Walk backwards with his hands up? The cop will think he’s running away again. Just continue to stand still with his hands up? If he’s got a shoulder wound, that’s becoming harder to do by the second, but even if not, the officer’s silence while still pointing the gun at him suggests that he hasn’t done enough to surrender yet, so maybe he needs to do something else. But what?

        Kneeling would be the best choice, obviously. But try kneeling with your hands up without taking a step forward to balance yourself.

        But maybe it’s not a bad idea to walk slowly toward the cop with your hands up to show you’re ready to be arrested. The cop has to know you’ve surrendered, right? Your hands are up and you’ve just said “OK, OK, OK.”

        You’re not trained what to do when a cop is pointing a gun at you and isn’t giving you any instruction. I’d hope that cops are trained to recognize that a suspect with his hands up and either standing still or walking slowly is probably trying to surrender, and the appropriate response to that.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        archon, your interpretation of the article you refer to is fanciful.Report

  7. archon41 says:

    Well, Mark, I don’t think many will agree that Wilson’s defense rests on a showing that Brown was “charging,” or “bullrushing” him when he fired. That appears, at this point, to be a “red herring.” The jury will be charged with determining whether Wilson could reasonably fear for his safety when he fired the last, fatal shots. That’s where the “encounter” at the squad car becomes crucial. Did Brown object to being “hassled” for the trivial offense of “jaywalking,” or did he violently react to the prospect of being detained for “strong-arm robbery”? After all, he had no way of knowing whether his misconduct had been reported, and it appears that a BOLO, based on a report from a customer, had in fact gone out. Some of you have worn out creation with the claim that Brown’s conduct inside the store was inoffensive, if not exemplary. The admission of Dorian’s lawyer that a theft did occur kills this meme. So let me ask you this: Why would any rational person, knowing he had been caught red-handed, risk the filing of a criminal complaint by flinging aside a protesting clerk and swaggering through the door with those Swishers? How would you deter a reasonable juror from inferring that the behavior shown on that damning video is not suggestive of a violent disposition? And from further inferring that Wilson could not safely allow the 290 lb. Brown to again come within lunging distance of him?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      Legally, I’ll be the first to concede that it doesn’t much matter whether he was charging. The justifiable force bar is low enough for law enforcement that it’ll be very difficult to get a conviction no matter what happens.

      But morally, and in terms of whether or not people should be outraged at what happened? That’s a different story altogether.

      And morally speaking, the convenience store issue and the question of who threw the first punch at the police car are irrelevant. Either Brown was trying to surrender, or he wasn’t. And he pretty clearly was.

      Just because a use of force may be legally justified (or more accurately, fail to evidence lack of justification beyond a reasonable doubt) does not make it morally justified and does not mean that the officer acted appropriately or in a manner that wouldn’t have been prevented with better training and less of a warrior mentality amongst the police.

      As for this:

      Why would any rational person, knowing he had been caught red-handed, risk the filing of a criminal complaint by flinging aside a protesting clerk and swaggering through the door with those Swishers?

      Oh, I dunno. Maybe because he had already been caught red-handed and figured he was about to get a criminal complaint against him anyways. I’d frankly be pretty surprised to hear that a teen caught red-handed shoplifting but with the ability to escape by just pushing someone out of the way would do anything other than push that person out of the way. I’d be even more shocked to find out that an average teen believed that doing so would convert their petty shoplifting offense into a low-level felony.

      I mean, the rational teens that I’ve ever encountered would view the risk as “I’m totally busted if I stay here, but I’ll probably get away with this if I get this guy out of my way, which I can totally do.”

      And I’ll just add that I’ve seen no shortage of otherwise ordinary people with no criminal records initiate far more violent confrontations than a simple shove for far more trivial reasons than wanting to get away with a box of Swisher Sweets. Things like “Dude, you’re standing in my spot” at a country music concert. Or “Scoreboard, asshole.”

      And those dudes fight like hell when the authorities come for them, even though the authorities always win in the end. These dudes don’t wind up dead, though, and if they did, few would assume they had an irrationally “violent disposition” that would render them willing to knowingly risk their lives, whether or not anyone thought the authorities used excessive force.Report

  8. archon41 says:

    Not to indulge in “stereotypical thought,” but perhaps it’s just a “White thing”–the perception that a criminal record can really mess up one’s career aspirations, and result in significant expense and “jail time.” That’s going to be a “hard sell.” How would you persuade a juror that Brown wasn’t simply “out of control,” unwilling or unable to brook opposition? I’m not sure you help your cause with the claim that his threatening and bullying conduct should be regarded as unexceptional. You know that scrawny clerk could lawfully have blown his head off, right?

    So what evidence do you rely on for the claim that Wilson didn’t instruct Brown to halt? That no one heard any such demand? Seriously. Wilson will not only testify that he told Brown to halt, but that he had been attacked with such severity as to require hospital attention. That, and the fact that his firearm was discharged during this encounter takes Brown well beyond the pale of harmless innocence.Report

    • greginak in reply to archon41 says:

      I don’t’ know if “hospital attention” refers to the quickly debunked tales of Wilson having multiple injuries including broken bones or not. But those tales were shot down quickly.Report

      • archon41 in reply to greginak says:

        And the Chief’s statement that he took Wilson to the hospital is “debunked” on the theory that law enforcement officials are incapable of truth.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        That he was taken to the hospital doesn’t mean anything other then they had him checked. There were several rumors going around for a few days that he had broken bones and serious bruising. Some “news” sites said there were x rays proving he had significant injuries. Nothing came of that.

        It is not at all surprising or meaningful that he was taken to the ER after he had some level of physical altercation which no one is denying happened.Report

      • Chris in reply to greginak says:

        Yeah, at one point several media outlets were receiving reports from a source close to Wilson that he had a fractured orbital bone. That was quickly debunked. Hospital sources confirmed that he did go, was quickly treated and released for something very minor.Report

    • Guy in reply to archon41 says:

      It’s pretty clear to everyone that Wilson’s testimony will put him in the best possible light regardless of what actually happened. The best we have to go on are all the other accounts, which include no instruction.

      And could you maybe be a little less racist? It’s kind of irritating.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Guy says:

        it doesn’t matter what you say because your a racistReport

      • archon41 in reply to Guy says:

        Not to be tiresome about it, but the witnesses were not close enough to be conclusive on this point. They can only say they didn’t hear anything.

        I’m afraid we’ve reached the point where merely rejecting, or even questioning, the myths that have been so artfully spun here is deemed, at least in some circles, “racism” per se. That’s one way of shutting down unwelcome points of view.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Guy says:

        At 40-50 yards, much less 50 feet, the only way the witnesses would have heard nothing at all, not even something unintelligible to them, is if Wilson was using what my six year old would call an indoor voice. If you’re issuing orders to prevent someone you fear is about to attack you from moving, you don’t use your indoor voice. And if your in a high stress situation where your adrenaline is pumping, my experience is that you have to actively try to keep your voice at a low volume, which I’m pretty sure would be the last of my concerns in this situation.Report

      • Chris in reply to Guy says:

        As videos of the aftermath show, surrounded by all those buildings, you can hear voices from rather far away if they are speaking loudly.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Guy says:

        I once knew a man who, when it was pointed out that the Death Penalty would (if it had not already) execute innocents (as everyone involved in the decision is human, and humans makes mistakes) respond with “If they were executed, they were obviously guilty”.

        He then followed that up with “maybe not of the crime they were convicted of, but something equally as bad”. Why? Because people who aren’t guilty don’t get arrested or charged, obviously. If an innocent person is accused of a crime, it’s only because he’s an obvious criminal and thus a very compelling suspect.

        This not uncommon logic when dealing with law and order in America. It’s inconceivable to many that an officer would have shot an innocent man, therefore he MUST have done something to provoke it. An innocent man would have never drawn the cop’s attention at all, much less made him think about use of force.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      Not to indulge in “stereotypical thought,” but perhaps it’s just a “White thing”–the perception that a criminal record can really mess up one’s career aspirations, and result in significant expense and “jail time.”

      This completely misses the point. Every teenager knows shoplifting is a crime. A common crime in which a huge percentage of teenagers engage, but a crime nonetheless. If a storeowner catches you and wants to press charges, every teenager assumes that will wind up on their criminal record (and in some case it even will). So his choice wasn’t “give up the Swisher Sweets and nothing happens to you” versus “hold on to the Swisher Sweets and risk getting a criminal record.” His choice was “give up the Swisher Sweets and probably get arrested and a criminal record” or “push the store owner out of the way and probably avoid getting arrested and getting a criminal record.”

      The question isn’t whether that was a good choice – obviously it wasn’t – it’s whether that was an irrational choice that bespoke a willingness to act in the most irrational and life-threatening manner possible a few minutes later.

      How would you persuade a juror that Brown wasn’t simply “out of control,” unwilling or unable to brook opposition?

      First, Brown isn’t the one on trial here. Wilson already acted as his judge, jury, and executioner, whether or not he was justified in doing so. Second, I hate to keep saying this, but I’m not interested in legal standards here. I’m interested in moral ones. Third, I’m absolutely astounded at the belief that, even if Wilson did nothing wrong, it’s necessary or appropriate to assume that what Brown did in the convenience store shows him to have been uniquely insane and violent in a manner far worse than the average instigator of a bar fight. Finally, the answer to your question is obvious – someone who is fleeing is not “unwilling or unable to brook opposition.”

      I’m not sure you help your cause with the claim that his threatening and bullying conduct should be regarded as unexceptional. You know that scrawny clerk could lawfully have blown his head off, right?

      It’s evidence that he did something stupid. It’s evidence that he did something indisputably wrong. It’s not evidence that he was batshit insane in a manner different from an awful lot of other people, which is what he’d have to have been for the theory that he was doing anything other than surrendering when he turned around, put his hands up, and said “OK, OK, OK” to a police officer he had just been running away from and who had just fired several shots at him.

      As for the idea that the store owner legally could have shot him, I fail to see how that is remotely relevant to Wilson’s subsequent actions. I’ll also add that the only moment at which your statement would be true would have been in the instant that Brown reached out to push the shopowner. Before that moment, the shopowner had no reason to believe he was stopping anything more than shoplifting, and after that moment, there was no longer a felony to protect against – the crime was committed and the danger to the shop owner had ended.

      And, well, it’s no less legal for the victim in a bar fight to use deadly force against his assailant. But that doesn’t mean that the assailant is going to be crazy enough to fake a surrender and then run at someone who is already actually shooting at him 10 minutes later.

      Seriously. Wilson will not only testify that he told Brown to halt,

      Sure he will. That doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth, and he’s got a much stronger motive to lie than any one of the numerous witnesses who would testify to the contrary. Will that be enough to create reasonable doubt, though? Absolutely, because there will always be people who refuse to consider that police officers are every bit as capable of lying as anyone else.

      but that he had been attacked with such severity as to require hospital attention.

      We still don’t know much about this allegation, but again, it doesn’t matter from a moral standpoint even if it may matter from a legal standpoint. And I’m primarily concerned right now about the moral issue. The injury – which seems to have been no more serious than a black eye – occurred, if at all, right at the outset, before Brown fled, and well before Brown attempted to surrender. If the fatal shots occurred during the struggle in the police car, the alleged injuries would matter. But once that struggle ended, there’s no longer a threat.

      That, and the fact that his firearm was discharged during this encounter takes Brown well beyond the pale of harmless innocence.

      First, why does Wilson’s use of his firearm, in and of itself, reflect on Brown? That sounds an awful lot like “Brown deserved to be shot because he was shot.” Second, why does Brown need to be harmlessly innocent for Wilson’s use of force to be morally unjustifiable? Or even legally unjustifiable, for that matter? Failing to be harmlessly innocent hardly strikes me as moral justification for being killed.Report

  9. archon41 says:

    Oh, dear. All young adults, age 18, know full well that you aren’t “shoplifting” until you exit the store with something, without paying for it. Brown had only to fork the cigars over, to avoid further unpleasantness, instead of grabbing that terrified clerk by the throat. I’m afraid we must cast around for further explanations for such self-destructive behavior. Since you seem so conversant with the folkways of our urban youth, perhaps you wouldn’t mind educating us on what “Swishers” are commonly used for. What’s this “dipping” business about, anyway? I really know little about such matters. Well, I’ve heard tales. Let me observe, while I’m at it, that those who initiate bar fights usually have the excuse of being “under the influence” of something. I don’t think you meant to imply, above, that a full toxicology report has been released.

    You get no argument from me that Wilson must make a plausible showing that he feared for his safety when he fired those last shots. I must confess inability to understand how the severity of Brown’s assault on him, moments before, is not crucial to this inquiry. It also represents a violent felony justifying, under Missouri law, the degree of force necessary to prevent his escape. You want the code cite?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to archon41 says:

      “Since you seem so conversant with the folkways of our urban youth, perhaps you wouldn’t mind educating us on what “Swishers” are commonly used for. What’s this “dipping” business about, anyway?”

      What, no Chuck E. Cheese reference?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      The dude had stopped fleeing. Period. There’s no dispute about this. You can’t use deadly force to stop someone from fleeing if they’re no longer actually fleeing and have surrendered. And, YET AGAIN, I don’t give a crap whether Wilson has a valid legal defense – I’ve already conceded, repeatedly, that he’s unlikely to be convicted given the low legal bar for him to meet.

      I care about whether what he did was morally justified, which does not have a damn thing to do with whether he’s legally guilty. This is the same way I feel about the Adrian Peterson case – I don’t give a rat’s ass whether he has a valid legal defense, it’s still morally unacceptable to hit a child to the point of physical injury.

      I learned a long time ago that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I also get to learn on a daily basis that the law is quite frequently an ass.

      All young adults, age 18, know full well that you aren’t “shoplifting” until you exit the store with something, without paying for it.

      I’m going to need a source for this. Because the kids we used to catch stealing from the record store I worked at back in the day sure as hell didn’t seem to think this. And, well, here’s the definition of the crime of stealing in Missouri: “A person commits the crime of stealing if he or she appropriates property or services of another with the purpose to deprive him or her thereof, either without his or her consent or by means of deceit or coercion.” And the definition of “appropriates”: “”Appropriate” means to take, obtain, use, transfer, conceal or retain possession of.” There is nothing in there that suggests the crime is complete only upon leaving the store. It certainly reads as if it’s complete when you take possession of the item with the intent to deprive the owner without consent. But maybe the caselaw in MO says otherwise. It wouldn’t matter for our purposes, because “attempted stealing” is a separate crime, in this case, a Class C misdemeanor.

      So if every teen “knows” this, they’re wrong.

      Since you seem so conversant with the folkways of our urban youth, perhaps you wouldn’t mind educating us on what “Swishers” are commonly used for.

      In my day, making blunts to smoke pot was hardly something exclusive to “urban” youths, unless middle class and upper middle class white kids from the exurbs count as “urban youth.” Teenager smokes pot. News at 11.

      Ultimately, I just don’t get why Wilson’s defenders find it so necessary and important to build a dead teenager who can’t defend himself into a vicious, unrelenting, unthinking, and murderous animal. I don’t get why it’s so important for the killing of Brown to be viewed as something approaching heroic rather than something tragic, even if Wilson did everything right.

      I’d have a hell of a lot more respect for Wilson’s defenders if they could just acknowledge that Michael Brown was a human being who made a mistake that cost him his life and that, whether or not Wilson was legally or morally justified in shooting him, he didn’t “deserve” to die.

      I don’t understand why it’s so impossible to even consider that Wilson might be capable of making mistakes just like anyone else, especially in the heat of the moment, and that maybe, just maybe, Michael Brown is dead because two people made mistakes that day.

      And lastly, I definitely don’t understand why it’s so hard for so many to even consider that it might be problematic that the police kill a minimum of 400 people in this country every year, of which Michael Brown is just one, yet police in other fairly large nations collectively discharge their weapon fewer times in an entire month than there are bullets in Michael Brown’s body. Whether or not we want to continue making it so easy for police to justify shooting suspects, I don’t see why it’s so unworthy of discussing things the police may do to decrease the number of people they kill every year.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to archon41 says:

      Is this one of those things where the argument is that it was okay for the cop to shoot the dude because the dude was going to get high?

      That’s stupid.

      I heard an argument that Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea were popular chasers for people who were about to drink a bottle of cough syrup.


      Jesus Christ.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird – FWIW, I don’t read @archon41 making that argument, exactly. I see him/her implying (without, so far as I know, any evidence at all) that the Swishers are indicative that Brown might have been under the influence of PCP (hence the “dipping”). Presumably archon41 thinks that could explain any erratic or aggressive behavior, and lend credence to Wilson’s version of events.

        “Going to get high, so he deserved it” is a very different argument from “was high and acting crazy/aggressive in ways that might have made a cop reasonably fear for his life.”

        That said, I want to reiterate that I am unaware of any evidence that Brown was under the influence of drugs that were making him erratic or aggressive at the time he was shot.

        So speculating in that direction is, at best, highly…speculative, and at worst, seems like smearing the victim.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Hrm. I suppose I could see the argument but… it’s not like, say, a positive tox for marijuana would be taken as evidence that he wouldn’t be violent. Or a positive tox for steroids in the cop would be taken as evidence that the cop would have been excessively so.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird it’s not like, say, a positive tox for marijuana would be taken as evidence that he wouldn’t be violent. Or a positive tox for steroids in the cop would be taken as evidence that the cop would have been excessively so.

        You mean “evidence” in a ‘court of law’ sense, or in a ‘here in a comment thread trying to suss out whose story is more likely’ sense?

        Because leaving aside the ‘court of law’ sense and whether it would or should, I can definitely say that if it came out that Wilson was ‘roided to the gills or wired & wigging on an abused Adderall prescription (or drunk, or…) then I would say that information could be very pertinent to how I interpret his actions/mindstate, and how much weight I give his version of events.

        It’s not inherently an invalid line of inquiry, IMO, when we are trying to reconstruct the events in question.

        But, we’d need to be cautious.

        For one, we’d want to make sure there’s evidence of drug use, and we’re not just throwing the possibility out there to create FUD or smear someone.

        For another, drug/purity/dose/set/setting/body chemistry variations mean that even when we have a general idea of what a given drug usually does to people (=pot makes you mellow), in some cases our general idea won’t just be untrue, but actively misleading (maybe someone is that rare bird for whom pot triggers a psychotic episode, rather than triggering a marathon of Gilligan’s Island episodes).

        For a third, the info could cut multiple ways, depending on the situation. For example, pot may have made someone more mellow and unlikely to have been violent (score one for the victim’s narrative); but OTOH, its very illegality plus its sometime side-effect The Fear might have made the user more likely to be skulking around, acting suspicious (thereby potentially justifying the cop’s initial contact) and/or slower to respond to his questions/orders/commands; maybe it even affects the user’s thinking to the point where he thinks it better to run (or, he fights) even though the pot itself isn’t making him violent, because he knows that if he gets busted for pot again, he’s up the creek.

        So, a potential score for a cop’s narrative.

        To be clear, my point is not about whether drugs should be legal, nor villainized (though, were they legal, IMO the cultural context that sometimes gives rise to deadly misunderstandings might be greatly reduced); my point is simply that it’s not inherently invalid to consider what effect mind-altering substances might have had, when we are trying to reconstruct and interpret the mindstates and actions of an event’s participants, and decide which minds’ accounts are more reliable and likely to be true given the physical evidence.Report

    • Murali in reply to archon41 says:

      Except that there is clear evidence that he did pay for those cigars.


  10. archon41 says:

    I think we’ve just about reached a dead end here. I will point out that Brown had not, according to your definition, “appropriated” anything, until he left the store. He hadn’t even attempted to conceal the cigars on his person. I am confident that the prosecutor is not going to try to gloss over what we see on that video as “typical teen behavior.” What we see is so belligerent as to leave little doubt, in the mind of a typical juror, that Brown did attack Wilson, giving rise to a reasonable belief, on his part, that he could not safely allow him to get too close. I have no idea what you are using for a moral compass here. That squishy, subjective thing we call the “Kantian imperative”? Mine suggests to me that peace officers, like every other defendant, are entitled to benefit of doubt, and presumption of innocence. Hey, that pretty well lines up with the law, doesn’t it?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      The moral compass is simple: there is someone dead who did not deserve to die and who was not – whatever Wilson believed and however reasonably or unreasonably he believed it – about to attack Wilson, but was surrendering.

      As for “appropriate,” “take” and “obtain” pretty clearly describe what he did – the statute doesn’t say “take off the premises” or “remove from the premises.” And none of that matters anyway, because attempted stealing is in fact a crime anyhow.

      I am confident that the prosecutor is not going to try to gloss over what we see on that video as “typical teen behavior.”

      You mean that the prosecutor who depends on the police for all of his cases and would like nothing more than to see this case go away as quietly as possible?

      giving rise to a reasonable belief, on his part, that he could not safely allow him to get too close.

      How, then, was Wilson to complete the arrest? It sounds an awful lot like you’re suggesting that once the altercation at the car began, there was not a damn thing Brown could have done that would have made it inappropriate for Wilson to kill him.

      Mine suggests to me that peace officers, like every other defendant, are entitled to benefit of doubt, and presumption of innocence.

      Oddly enough, so does mine. But whether or not he is, can be, or should be convicted has nothing whatsoever to do with what I should think about the moral propriety of his actions. I don’t need a court to tell me that OJ killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, even though the prosecution did such a disastrous job that the jury had little choice but to acquit. I don’t need a court to tell me that Adrian Peterson crossed an intolerable line in his treatment of his sons even though there’s a reasonable chance that he, too, has a valid criminal defense and should be acquitted if the evidence supports it. And I don’t need a court to tell me that Officer Wilson, at minimum, made an egregious error in shooting Michael Brown even if the law or jury says that what he did wasn’t murder.Report

    • Murali in reply to archon41 says:

      This is a lie. Michael Brown did not steal those cigars. Whatever the altercation was, it was not over whether Michael stole any cigars.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to archon41 says:

      Does your “presumption of innocence” extend to Michael Brown as well? Or is that reserved for the cop that killed him?Report

  11. archon41 says:

    For cryin’ out loud. Dorian Johnson’s attorney admits the theft took place. Even Crump isn’t denying it. It was reported by a customer, not by the clerk or owner. Whether Wilson identified Brown as being the subject of the BOLO that had gone out is disputed. One thing seems clear enough, however: Brown had reason to fear that Wilson was going to detain him for robbery.

    So what’s next: another orgy of rioting and looting based on “moral” outrage?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to archon41 says:

      No. What’s next is leaving a body in the middle of the street for five hours, excusing the shooter from having to file an incident report, flagrantly lying about the distance from the police car to the body, refusing to release any information about the shooter (and ultimately for almost a week) despite this being SOP under any other conceivable circumstance, refusing to interview the primary witness, shooting tear gas at families standing in their own front yard, drawing AR-15s at unarmed protesters…..all against a backdrop of a community disproportionately subject to stops, often thrown in jail for inability to pay the traffic fines from those disproportionate stops, and in which an indisputably innocent man was severely beaten by the police, who proceeded to charge him with the offense of getting blood on their uniforms.

      Then you might get a small number of people sufficiently morally outraged to loot and riot against the wishes of everyone else in their community.Report

      • bystander in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        This article explains why the body was left in the street so long:


        Piaget Crenshaw had given interviews to the media decribing how Brown had been shot just 35 feet away from the SUV. The reason for this mistake is that a second SUV arrived on the scene very quickly after the shooting which would suggest that Crenshaw only saw the scene after the second unit arrived and identified the wrong SUV as Wilson’s. This would suggest that she didn’t see the shooting. Tiffany Mitchell would later give the distance of Brown to the SUV as around 20 feet. The police knew that there would be a lot of witness coming forward to describe “what they had seen” and the only way to filter out the false witnesses was to confirm that Brown died 35 feet from Wilson’s SUV. Anyone observing the scene after the shooting would have no way of knowing which SUV was Wilson’s. .Report

      • bystander in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Another thing to consider when looking at possible evidence in this case is the 7 seconds of gunshot audio recorded on the Glide video. The construction workers describe seeing Brown “stumble” forward for 25 feet before falling to the pavement. Dr. Baden, the Brown family medical examiner, stated that the bullet to Brown’s forehead would have killed him in an instant. So Brown could not have “stumbled” forward after the final shot was fired. He could only have fallen to the pavement after the final shot was fired. Brown ran over 120 feet and it’s been claimed that he was shot at while he fled. Brown would have needed some time and a little distance to slow himself down enough to stop and turn around. He was a 300 pound man running at least 25 feet per 3 seconds and he was in socks. Assuming the first shot heard in the Glide audio struck Brown as he fled, he probably would have needed at least 4 seconds to slow down enough to stop and turn around. That would leave Brown with just 3 seconds to “stumble” forward 25 feet, after having just stopped his forward progress) before being shot in the brain with the final shot heard on the Glide audio. From the videos and photos taken at the scene, there is one evidence cone about 20 feet from Wilson’s SUV and it is marking the location of Brown’s flip flop. There are three evidence cones near Brown’s body (one behind a few feet, one near his hips, and one a couple feet forward of his head). If those cones mark the locations of shell casings, then there was no casings found between the SUV and the body (at least none found prior to the arrival of the investigating detectives). If the audio is legit and the cones represent the locations of shell casings then it’s highly unlikely that Wilson shot at Brown as he fled.Report

      • …except for the fact that the police themselves have already acknowledged that at least one shot was fired while Brown was fleeing.Report

      • In other words, it’s totally ok for the government to publicly lie when one of its agents shoots an unarmed man.Report

      • something something trolls something feeding something something…Report

  12. archon41 says:

    I’m going to leave you guys to your snake pit.Report

    • Murali in reply to archon41 says:


    • Nob Akimoto in reply to archon41 says:

      I’m sure VDare would be happy to have you.

      Good riddance.Report

    • Wardsmith in reply to archon41 says:

      Archon I’d like to see you post more but on who unrelated topics to this one. This place has a cliquish feel to it that could do with some fresh voices. But to go on and on about a pet subject gets boorish. I know I’ve been guilty of that myself as have many others here. At some point as gentle persons we step back and publicly acknowledge that the other interlocutors have valid points and we agree to disagree and go on with our lives. Tell us what music you like, your favorite shows and other dimensions to your personhood and you’ll make virtual friends here and the respect will be mutual. Whether I agree or disagree is immaterial, you use the Kings English well enough. Sick aroundReport

  13. Morat20 says:

    I’m pretty sure this discussion has drawn at least two new people to post on this topic alone. Solely on this topic.

    Interesting, what motivates people. I mean, just finding this topic on this blog alone, for someone who isn’t a regular….Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

      And it doesn’t even involve Rush or vaccinations.Report

    • archon41 in reply to Morat20 says:

      I came here because the site turned up on a “Ferguson news” Google search. I suspected I was making a mistake by commenting. This site is a study in tightly closed, intolerant minds. The possibility of rational exchange simply doesn’t exist here. Oh, yeah, I’m an unlettered, unreconstructed, amoral, bitter-clinging “fundie” with a microchip implanted in my skull by Karl Rove. Now stop cluttering my inbox.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to archon41 says:

        Dude, you’ve been discussing this issue with a guy who’s presented evidence to support his view as well as evidence to undermine your view. That’s called a discussion, no? It seems to me you’re pissed off b/c Mark doesn’t agree with you, and specifically *not* because he’s close-minded. If you presented some actual evidence to change his mind I’m sure he’d take it into consideration. As he has with everything you’ve presented so far.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to archon41 says:

        “I came here because the site turned up on a “Ferguson news” Google search.”

        Here and everywhere else on the internet.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to archon41 says:

        Stop…cluttering up your inbox? Oh, you must mean the emails you get when someone replies.

        So really, what’s got you SO incensed about it that you’re using Google Alerts to find people talking about it, then rolling up to explain how wrong they are, then getting offended and starting up a martyr routine when they don’t agree with you?

        I mean are you involved? A Ferguson cop or resident? What’s so important about this one thing that you troll the internet, looking for references?Report

  14. Patrick says:

    This site is a study in tightly closed, intolerant minds. The possibility of rational exchange simply doesn’t exist here.

    How this characterization can be leveled at the dialogue including Mark in this thread is incredible.

    I think the epistemic closure argument can now be said to have been completely appropriated by the epistemic closure folks.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

      I think the epistemic closure argument can now be said to have been completely appropriated by the epistemic closure folks.

      Wasn’t that always the case?Report

    • archon41 in reply to Patrick says:

      What the aspirated “L” is it with you guys? We understand each other perfectly. I know why the narrative you have created here resonates so deeply with you: It confirms that multitudes of the “underserved” agonize under the oppressive weight of “institutional racism,” a burden which can only be relieved by “transformational change.” That underlying agenda cuts off meaningful discourse with those who don’t share your ideology. To take this thread as an example, to advance the claim that Brown’s behavior on the video represents but a youthful indiscretion, “no big deal,” or to attempt to revive the meme that a robbery didn’t take place, or to let fly with resentful insinuations of “racism” is indicative of “bad faith.” It reflects a determination to insist that black is white, if that is required to preserve the narrative. So give me a break, and let it drop. It’s hardly as though any open minded souls were passing this way.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to archon41 says:

        And yet you keep coming back…….

        Again, why is this issue so important to you that you track it on Google, and show up on a blog you’ve never been to to argue and insult people? Are you a resident of Ferguson? A police officer in St Loius?

        Or just a bored troll? I mean, good lord — school’s started back up, they normally die down a bit around now.Report