Since the development of my first theory of the case, virtually every bit of information regarding the case leaked to the public is supportive of that theory: Officer Darren Wilson lawfully shot robber Michael Brown. Readers should, however, approach this preliminary observation with caution. As I’ve repeatedly noted, I don’t have all, perhaps even most, of the facts. I don’t have copies of the police reports, the autopsy, witness statements, evidence reports, etc. Without those things, it is possible, perhaps likely, that I am wrong in ways small and large, ways I can’t possibly identify at the moment.
The Michael Brown archive may be found here.
Nonetheless, we all must proceed based on the information we do have, and I proceed based on my police experience and knowledge of the law and human nature. Following is a summary of the developments of late October and early November, 2014.
Officer Wilson’s Testimony:
The police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old in a St. Louis suburb last summer has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as they struggled over his gun, The New York Times reported.
Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson has told authorities that Michael Brown reached for the gun during a scuffle, the Times reported in a story posted on its website Friday night. The officer’s account to authorities did not explain why he fired at Brown multiple times after emerging from his vehicle, according to the newspaper.
The Times reported that the account of Wilson’s version of events came from government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting that sparked racial unrest and weeks of protests, some of which turned violent. Wilson is white and Brown black.
There can be no question that Wilson—after consultation with his attorney—has provided a complete account of why he fired. The grand jury surely has it, but the news media simply does not have that information as yet. The best, currently known information indicates that Wilson’s handgun was removed from its holster and fired twice in his vehicle, striking Brown once in the hand.
The Times reported that Wilson has told investigators that he was trying to leave his SUV when Brown pushed him back in and that once inside the vehicle the two began to fight. Wilson told authorities that Brown punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck, the Times reported.
Notice the tired, racial tag at the end of the article:
The Justice Department is investigating the Ferguson Police Department for possible civil rights violations, including whether officers there use excessive force and engage in discriminatory practices. Two-thirds of Ferguson’s 21,000 residents are black but only three of its more than 50 police officers are black.
As I’ve noted several times in this case, the number of Ferguson’s black police officers is indicative of nothing more than that Ferguson has three black police officers. Even though the media can’t seem to leave it alone, nothing more can or should be read into it.
The New York Times confirmed much of this information:
The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.
The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.”
In September, Officer Wilson appeared for four hours before a St. Louis County grand jury, which was convened to determine whether there is probable cause that he committed a crime. Legal experts have said that his decision to testify was surprising, given that it was not required by law. But the struggle in the car may prove to be a more influential piece of information for the grand jury, one that speaks to Officer Wilson’s state of mind, his feeling of vulnerability and his sense of heightened alert when he killed Mr. Brown.
Police officers typically have wide latitude to use lethal force if they reasonably believe that they are in imminent danger.
One might reasonably interpret Wilson’s testimony to indicate that he and his attorney believe him to be completely justified under Missouri law, as my analysis of that body of law suggests. That analysis of the law makes clear, if my theory of the case is substantially correct, that Wilson was justified, not only by acting in his capacity as a police officer trying to apprehend a violent felon, but in employing deadly force in self-defense under any rational interpretation of the law.
Significantly, even the NYT, which normally fully supports any social justice narrative, is not looking kindly on that narrative in the Brown case:
The officials said that while the federal investigation was continuing, the evidence so far did not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson. To press charges, the Justice Department would need to clear a high bar, proving that Officer Wilson willfully violated Mr. Brown’s civil rights when he shot him.
Not that the NYT can long be limited to anything as pedestrian and boring as the facts:
However, Mr. Johnson’s description of the scuffle is detailed and specific, and directly contradicts what Officer Wilson has told the authorities.
Mr. Johnson has said that Officer Wilson was the aggressor, backing up his vehicle and opening the door, which hit Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brown and then bounced back.
‘He just reached his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around his neck, and he was trying to choke my friend,’ Mr. Johnson told reporters after the shooting. ‘He was trying to get away, and the officer then reached out and grabbed his arm to pull him inside the car.’
Officer Wilson then drew his weapon, Mr. Johnson said, and threatened to shoot.
‘In the same moment, the first shot went off,” he said. “We looked at him. He was shot. There was blood coming from him. And we took off running.’
Never, Mr. Johnson said, did Mr. Brown reach for the officer’s weapon.
Johnson’s account is suspect for many reasons. Not only was Johnson complicit in a strong-armed robbery, he may have actually been involved in the attack on Wilson. Because Brown died, Johnson may be charged with murder. He has compelling reasons to lie.
His account is essentially the opposite of Wilson’s. No police officer in his right mind would, while seated in his vehicle with the door closed, reach through his window and try to grab a 6’4” nearly 300 pound person by the neck, to say nothing of trying to pull him through the window. Not only would the leverage involved be wrong and not at all in Wilson’s favor, it would be counter to every proper approach tactic Wilson—and any competent police officer—was ever taught. Wilson would need arms of ape-like length to so much as contemplate such a maneuver, and it would be an excellent way to have one’s arm broken.
Consider Johnson’s account. Wilson and Brown are struggling, and Brown—an enormous young man, is surely blocking Johnson’s view of what was happening. He would easily have filled the car window. How could Johnson possibly have seen Wilson drawing his gun and shooting Brown—unless he too was in that window, grabbing for Wilson’s handgun?
And this shot, and a threat to shoot Brown occurred simultaneously with Wilson’s supposed struggle to pull the huge, massive and resisting Brown into his car through the window? One-handed? Nonsense.
The officials briefed on the case said the forensic evidence gathered in the car lent credence to Officer Wilson’s version of events. According to his account, he was trying to leave his vehicle when Mr. Brown pushed him back in. Once inside the S.U.V., the two began to fight, Officer Wilson told investigators, and he removed his gun from the holster on his right hip.
Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department has said in interviews that Officer Wilson was ‘pushed back into the car’ by Mr. Brown and ‘physically assaulted.’ The department is conducting the local investigation into Mr. Brown’s death.
This account precisely reflects what any competent police officer would have done in approaching Brown and Johnson. He would have left his police vehicle and approached them on foot. To do otherwise would have placed him at a dangerous tactical disadvantage. Police officers need to control every encounter. Remaining in his car would have allowed Brown and Johnson to control the encounter, which is exactly what happened.
There will surely be medical evidence, and likely photographs, to support Wilson’s version of events. In addition, there is no evidence I have seen that supports any sign of injury on Brown’s throat attributable to choking or being grabbed by a single hand, or two hands for that matter.
Benjamin Crump, an integral member of the Trayvon Martin Scheme Team, continues to manipulate the system and misrepresent the truth, just as he did in the Martin case:
In an interview, Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, dismissed Officer Wilson’s account of what happened in the S.U.V. that day.
‘What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,’ Mr. Crump said, adding that Officer Wilson should be indicted by the grand jury and his case sent to trial. ‘He can say what he wants to say in front of a jury. They can listen to all the evidence and the people can have it transparent so they know that the system works for everybody.’
He added: ‘The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.
Crump knows full well that the evidence speaks more eloquently than testimony–that’s what doomed the George Zimmerman prosecution–and the evidence is supportive of Wilson. The suggestion that everyone that might be charged with a crime should be indicted and forced to defend them self is a gross perversion of the justice system–ask any defense attorney. If there is sufficient probable cause, a charge is possible, but never mandatory. Far more than that goes into any charging decision. In America, we don’t arrest people to hold a show trial for social justice purposes. If there is not sufficient evidence to support a charge, refusing to charge Wilson demonstrates “that the system works for everybody.”
Crump also knows full well that what happened in the car matters very much, and that the weight of the evidence indicates that Brown initially tried to flee, but soon stopped, taunted, and charged Wilson who was still reeling from the beating Brown administered only seconds earlier. Crump also knows that Brown was an adult, a huge adult that had minutes earlier committed a strong-armed robbery, and that whether he was armed or not makes no difference.
At the National Review, Rich Lowry had some interesting comments:
It wasn’t so long ago that Ferguson, Mo., was supposed to be an American morality tale of racism, the militarization of police, and all manner of other evil. For a few weeks in August, the attention of the national media focused on the suburb of St. Louis, and MSNBC practically broadcast nothing else. President Barack Obama even mentioned Ferguson at a U.N. speech in the context of terror groups that behead people and sectarian conflicts that kill hundreds of thousands of people.
While the media long ago moved on, the protests have persisted, entering their late, decadent phase of self-indulgent triviality. Cornel West got arrested last week, and Al Sharpton is heading back to Ferguson at the end of the month to pump up attention for what styles itself a movement, although it is more tinny by the day.
A hallmark of August was pointlessly destructive civil disorder, and it’s only gotten more pointless. In late September, the makeshift memorial to Michael Brown on the street in Ferguson burned down, probably set alight by its own candles. This set off minor rioting, including the vandalizing of a beauty salon that has been hit multiple times for the offense of operating a business in a town where protesters are so committed to justice.
By all means, take the link and read the entire commentary.
In the meantime, the Washington Post, no slouch in promoting a hot social justice narrative, published a nearly mournful article:
Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said.
When racial tension boiled over in Ferguson after the Aug. 9 shooting, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. traveled to the St. Louis suburb to meet with city leaders and protest organizers in an effort to bring calm. He assured them that the federal government would open a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. But that investigation now seems unlikely to result in any charges.
‘The evidence at this point does not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson,’ said one person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
Justice Department officials are loath to acknowledge publicly that their case cannot now meet the high legal threshold for a successful civil rights prosecution. The timing is sensitive: Tensions are high in greater St. Louis as people await the results of a grand jury’s review of the case.
Many supporters of Brown say they are already convinced there will be no state-level indictment of the officer. Federal officials have wanted to show that they are conducting a full and fair review of the case.
When this article was published on October 31, the Obama Administration was still hoping that Democrats could retain control of the Senate and wanted to hold out the possibility of a sensational show trial of Officer Wilson. Subsequent events have not been kind to that hope. The Post also resurrected Trayvon Martin comparisons:
Authorities faced a similar challenge in the investigation of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Under federal law for hate crimes, prosecutors have to show that someone has been victimized intentionally because of a racial or other bias.
Law enforcement officials have said privately that there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges in that case, although the two-year probe technically remains open.
The investigation of the Brown shooting is being conducted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under a federal statute that makes it a crime for a person with government authority — the legal term is ‘acting under color of any law’ — to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
Translation: Those darned civil right laws! They’re actually constitutional. They keep us from doing proper social justice!
Samuel Bagenstos, a former Justice Department principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights and now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the obstacles prosecutors face in the Ferguson case are typical, as are the frustrations of Brown’s supporters.
It is common to have a situation ‘that looks like a constitutional violation and may well be an injustice,’ Bagenstos said. ‘But sometimes the Justice Department does not have the ability to bring a civil rights case under the statutes it enforces.
Translation: A strong-arm robber assaults a police officer, tries to get his handgun and ends up dead. This is obviously an injustice! It’s those darned statutes again! No wonder the robber’s supporters are frustrated; there’s just no social justice!
Can A Nobel Peace Prize Be Far Away?
The local St. Louis CBS affiliate has this:
Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden [Michael Brown’s Parents] are scheduled to address the 53rd Session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva on Nov. 12 and 13. A Saint Louis University law professor is helping to organize the trip and to solicit online donations for the couple’s travel expenses.
The trip comes as a St. Louis County grand jury prepares to conclude its inquiry into the Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.
Family attorney Anthony Gray told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Brown’s parents plan to leave on Nov. 10.
First, President Obama denigrates America–yet again–before the UN with mention of this case, and now Brown’s parents, whose parenting skills and attentiveness reasonable people might legitimately question, are honored guests before the UN, the better to complete what Mr. Obama started. It’s a strange, strange world.
Rules Of Engagement:
This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. It amounts to criminals announcing their upcoming crimes and telling the police not to arrest them. The most bizarre aspect of it is the police appear to be considering going along with it.
Tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, have simmered since black teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in August.
And with a grand jury expected to soon deliver its decision on whether to indict the officer, a group that represents protesters says it wants 48-hours notice before the decision is announced so it can help prevent the St. Louis suburb from once again boiling over with anger, violence and confusion.
A group of community members calling themselves the Don’t Shoot Coalition this week released 19 “Rules of Engagement” that touch on major points of contention between protesters and police since Brown’s August 9 killing.
Ferguson’s mayor, John Knowles, is preparing for the worst:
Knowles would not give details on law enforcement’s plan following the grand jury’s decision, CNN affiliate Fox 2 reported Wednesday. But he spoke in broad terms about the approach law enforcement is going to take.
‘It’s not going to be about lining up a fixed line of law enforcement officers somewhere, it’s going to be about being prepared, being reactive, being mobile, being able to respond to wherever an issue breaks out,’ the mayor said.
Knowles also expects there’s going to be unrest outside of Ferguson.
‘It’s not going to be about Ferguson,’ he said. ‘The threats that are out there are threats across the region. Our expectation is that demonstrations will probably break out in several places.’
The mayor told Fox 2 that people who are close to organizers and protesters have informed him that demonstrators are planning to focus on areas around St. Louis and the city’s downtown.
But of course! Ferguson has been pretty much cleaned out. No point in looting there. The “protestor’s” voices can best be heard by stealing expensive consumer electronics; it’s the American way.
A Mother’s Love:
The good folks at Legal Insurrection have the story:
The Smoking Gun web site has obtained a copy of a police report in which Pearlie Gordon (the mother-in-law of Mike Brown’s father), claims that on October 18 she was attacked, beaten, and robbed by Lesley McSpadden (Mike Brown’s biological mother), Desureia Harris (Mike Brown’s biological grandmother), and an assortment of 20-30 others, some of whom are apparently related in some fashion or another to the deceased Mike Brown.
On the basis of this report, embedded below, McSpadden potentially faces felony armed robbery charges.
And what was the cause of this assault? An argument over the constitutional ramifications of protest policy? A heated debate over the limits of free speech? Nothing so pedestrian as that. This was a matter of real importance: money.
The police report succinctly captures the apparent genesis of the October 18 attack on yet another small business in #Ferguson, the street-side kiosk of Ms. Gordon.
Gordon stated she was selling ‘Justice for Mike Brown’ merchandise with [two helpers] on the above parking lot when a large group of about 20-30 subjects ‘jumped out of vehicles and rushed them.’ Gordon said Lesley (or Lezley) McSpadden approached her tent and said ‘you cant [sic] sell this shit [sic].’ Gordan [sic] told McSpadden she was Michael Brown Sr.’s mother in law [sic] and unless McSpadden could produce documentation stating she had a patent on her son’s name she (Gordon) was going to continue to sell her merchandise.
And so the battle lines were drawn, albeit with Gordon at an imprudent 10:1 handicap.
First to strike was purportedly Michael Brown’s biological grandmother, Desureia [sic] Harris, who told Gordon ‘you don’t know my grandson like that. I’m gonna tear this shit [sic] down,’ which Harris allegedly proceeded to do without further delay.
Gordon states that she was then set upon by the horde, receiving repeated blows about the head and shoulders. Gordon specifically reported being struck by McSpadden, as well as other named suspects.
By the time the dust had settled and police and EMS were rolling up, Gordon was reporting that more than $1,500 in merchandise and $400 in cash had been stolen by unknown members of the attacking mob. At least one of Gordon’s helpers was transported to the hospital for injuries sustained in the attack.
Apparently social justice has complex rules that govern commerce and profit. Violation of those rules will be punished by traditional social justice methods of social change and reconciliation: assault, destruction of property, robbery and theft. Ah, the nobility of the Ferguson protestors! Who can fail to sympathize with such honorable, altruistic people? Who can fail to see the righteousness of their cause?
More, I’m sure, to come in the near future.