Let’s stop the idle chatter and cut to the chase. The shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has become the focus of national attention. There has been a game played by Ferguson police and the media with the intent to distract from key issues surrounding this controversial case. Futile attacks on Brown’s character have done nothing to address the many questions thousands of protesters have been demanding to know from the very beginning: Why was an unarmed black teenager, who was walking down Canfield Drive, shot multiple times by a police officer? More importantly, was the officer legally justified in doing so?
It is no coincidence that the same day the Ferguson Police Department (“FPD”) identified Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, reports and surveillance footage claiming to show Brown in the act of robbing a convenience store were suddenly released. The FPD’s irresponsible decision to release this type of information six days after Brown’s killing doesn’t pass the smell test. Brown’s culpability in this robbery has no direct bearing on how or why he was killed. Police Chief Jackson confirmed to reporters at Friday’s press conference that the robbery had no relation to the initial contact between Wilson and Brown. Whether Wilson had some knowledge of an alleged robbery occurring or not, his contact with Brown was based on the simple fact that he was “walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic,” according to Jackson. So if one didn’t have anything to do with the other, why would the FPD disseminate this information to the public?
Well it’s simple – it’s called criminalization. We’ve seen this transparent move done to perfection in the past – the media’s conscious effort to create a negative portrayal of young, black victims to justify their killings in some way. No one cared about Trayvon Martin‘s school suspensions, or Renisha McBride‘s blood alcohol level or marijuana use. And no one should care about Michael Brown’s past either. The primary focus must remain on the issue at the very core of this case and that is whether Officer Wilson believed there was an immediate threat to his life that would legally justify his use of deadly force against Michael Brown. The evidence could support Wilson’s version of the events of a violent confrontation initiated by Brown, who he claims attempted to grab his gun. Under these circumstances, Wilson could have been legally justified in using deadly force. On the other hand, the evidence may discredit Wilson’s account and corroborate statements made by several witnesses that say Wilson shot Brown after raising his arms in the air; therefore, Wilson’s use of deadly force when the threat was neutralized would not be justified. With new information developing every day and pending the results of investigations by both local and federal officials, no one at this point can answer with certainty the question of whether deadly force was justifiable in this case.
Autopsy results on Brown’s body released Monday morning shed new light on what may have occurred right before Brown was shot to death. It appears Brown was shot at least six times, including two shots to the head. A gun shot wound to the top of a 6-foot-4 Brown could suggest his head was bent forward, possibly in a kneeling position when the bullet struck him. Gun shot wounds to Brown’s arms could have occurred while his arms were in the air, possibly in a defensive posture. Brown also sustained multiple abrasions to his face consistent with falling face first to the ground after being shot to death. These findings seem to support what several eye witnesses reported seeing that tragic day, but is hardly enough to forensically reconstruct the shooting according to Dr. Baden, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. There is still an additional autopsy pending that was approved by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Brown’s body that will be conducted by a federal medical examiner. An autopsy by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office was also done, but like everything else those results have not yet been released.
Once the state investigation by the St. Louis County police department is complete with forensic details — the autopsy results and toxicology tests — the case gets handed over to the district attorney’s office. The District Attorney will then present the evidence gathered to a grand jury, a group of people who represent a broad cross-section of the population of the county to determine whether filing criminal charges against Wilson is appropriate given the facts and the law. Although the wheels of justice are moving forward, charges against the officer will not come quickly until a thorough investigation is complete. Until then, thousands will continue to rally and march down the streets of Ferguson in support of Michael Brown, but more importantly, justice.