WASHINGTON, August 18, 2014 — Since the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, the St. Louis suburb has exploded in riots and looting. The media have put the area under a microscope.
Most Ferguson residents are African American, while the police force is about 95 percent white. The community is already tense with racial hostility, and the slow drip of information has made it worse. There are still many unanswered questions, some of which could have easily been answered days ago.
The major question of what led to the shooting is still unclear; police and eyewitnesses give contradictory accounts of that day.
Here are five facts about the Michael Brown shooting that are not being widely reported, which although will not help answer those questions, will provide some additional context to the events of that day.
Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson released a surveillance video showing two teenagers, one presumed to be Michael Brown, stealing cigars from a store prior to the shooting. The video shows a large male steeling cigars and acting aggressively toward the store clerk. The family of Michael Brown was extremely angry after the video release, claiming that the timing was intended to smear the victim’s reputation.
The Washington Post revealed that drug tests, routinely preformed during an autopsy, showed Brown to have marijuana in his system. This may explain the 18-year-old’s desire to have cigars.
“Blunts” are the street name for marijuana rolled inside of tobacco leaf. Inexpensive cigars such as the Swisher Sweets taken by Brown and his companion are favorites in making blunts.
To create the illegal smoke, the creator unwraps the cigar, fills it with marijuana and rewraps it. The practice has been going on for many years.
Darren Wilson’s past
Darren Wilson was finally named as the officer who shot the teen after an attempt to keep his name secret by the Ferguson police.
Information about Wilson has been suppressed for fear that too much information could prejudice a case against him or get him hurt or killed. But reporters from MailOnline have discovered the unusual and difficult life Wilson had as a child.
Wilson’s mother, Tonya Durso was a serial con artist. Durso started stealing people’s identities and taking large sums in loans and credit card debt long before anyone knew to watch out for this type of crime.
While on parole for theft and forgery, when she was 35 years old and Wilson was 16, Durso was found dead. Although the cause of death was never revealed, neighbors always believed that she was a suicide.
It is interesting that while he grew up surrounded by dishonesty and crime, Wilson would decide to make his living on the other side of the law.
Michael Brown’s education
Michael Brown had just graduated from Normandy High School on August 1, 2014 according to the Washington Post. He had taken classes over the summer in an alternative learning program in order to complete all of his credits for graduation.
The Normandy School District is not one of the nation’s better school districts. Last May, the Missouri state education leaders voted to dissolve the entire school district after it lost its accreditation.
The school district is being taken over by a state-appointed, joint executive governing board. This would require any new schools in the system to report to the state.
With the loss of the accreditation, students were allowed to change enrollment to higher performing schools last year. Michael Brown did not make the choice to attend another school.
With the dismantling of the school system, all teachers’ and administers’ contracts ended on June 30.
Normandy schools finally lost their accreditation after no improvement in scores over a two year probationary period. Only about 20 percent of the students were able to pass national standards in reading and math.
Support of Officer Wilson
Counter-protests in support of Officer Wilson are springing up.
These protests are small, with only about 150 people showing up, according to Jon Swaine, a reporter on the ground for The Guardian, and mostly white.
In fact, all of the protesters in support of Wilson at one protest were white except for one person, Martin Baker, a former GOP primary candidate.
The protest was held outside of a local television station, KSDK.
These protesters believe that Wilson was doing his job when he shot Brown, and they wanted to show a contrast between a peaceful protest and how the other protesters are behaving.
The protesters sold t-shirts saying, “Officer Wilson, I stand by you” for $7 until they ran out. The protesters claim to also be raising money online to support Wilson.
The two sides may never agree on what happened
Michael Brown’s family released an independent autopsy report which shows that Brown was shot six times; he could have survived five of the shots.
Five of Brown’s gunshot wounds were in the front of his body, but one of the shots that hit him in the forearm could be consistent with him walking away with his hands up in the air, according to the family’s independent autopsy report.
The St. Louis County medical examiner is reporting, according to the Washington Post, that all six shots entered Brown’s body from the front.
A third autopsy is currently being conducted by the Justice Department.
If all of the gunshots entered through the front of Brown’s body, that would contradict an eyewitness who reported seeing the teen walking away from the officer with his hands up when he was shot.
If one did enter his arm as he was walking away, it brings up the question of what order could these shots have been fired in.
Both autopsies agree that there were four shots to Brown’s arms and two to his head with additional wounds occurring in his chest, neck and jaw from exit wounds. One of the headshots was the fatal shot.
The private autopsy claims that the fatal shot went from the middle of the brain to the right side of the brain indicating that he was bending downward at the time.
The medical examiner who conducted the family’s private autopsy did not receive access to all evidence that the St. Louis and federal medical examiners have access to. The family’s examiner did not see any clothing to check for gunpowder residue in the case of a close shooting, did not have access to x-rays to see where the bullet remaining in the body are located, nor was he able to see any eyewitness or police statements for comparison.