FERGUSON, MO., August 16, 2014 — Michael Brown was the 18-year old man shot in the street of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9 by police officer Darren Wilson.
Brown had just graduated from Normandy High School in the spring and was scheduled to start classes at Vatterott College, which has four different campuses in the St. Louis area, to learn the heating and cooling trade, two days after he was shot.
Brown had been visiting his grandmother, Desuirea Harrison, in the blue collar neighborhood of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis on the fateful day when he and a friend headed out and stopped at a convenience store.
Through the released surveillance video from that convenience store, it is clear that at six feet four inches, Brown was a big boy. A big boy who was in an intimidating and provocative mood that day.
A big boy who was unarmed and ended up lying in the street dead from an officer’s gunshots.
That is about where the known facts end, and where the spin from both sides begins.
From watching the recently released surveillance video, it is clear that regardless of the claims of family members saying Brown was a gentle giant, on that day he was not in a gentle mood.
The video shows Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson inside the Ferguson market. It appears that Brown asks the clerk for cigars and when he puts the inexpensive, machine rolled cigars on the counter, Brown picks them up and hands them to Johnson.
The clerk says something, presumably asking for money. Brown then reaches across the counter grabbing more packages of the cigars and then the two boys head for the door.
The video shows the clerk running for the door in an attempt to stop the boys. Brown, who was considerably larger than the clerk, takes the clerk by the shirt and pushes him away.
The clerk says something and Brown aggressively comes toward the clerk again. As the employee backs away, Brown and Johnson leave the store.
This is reportedly when that clerk called the police to report the theft, which brought Officer Darren Wilson onto the scene.
The video depicts a much different Michael Brown than the one in the photo released by the family of a much younger Brown at a Chuck-e-Cheese type establishment.
As both sides continue to try and spin the information to support their side, some facts do not change.
After watching the video, it is not hard to believe that Brown was the type of kid who would walk down the middle of the street blocking traffic. Nor is it hard to believe that he was the type of person who would engage a police officer, but he was also the type of person who should have survived that confrontation.
Michael Brown had the desire to aggravate that day. He gained police attention by stealing and then walking down the middle of the street, interfering with traffic. Unfortunately, he earned the attention from the wrong policeman.
It is extremely difficult to explain shooting an unarmed man. It is impossible to justify the second shot.
Darren Wilson’s actions seem to be those of an officer who was scared, not confident, and possibly not well trained. This is the responsibility of the police chief.
The police handling of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri escalated the tension instead of defusing it.
As soon as word started to spread that there were going to be citizens gathering, the police should have reached out to community and religious leaders asking for assistance.
The predominantly black community should have seen a presence that included faces like theirs.
Deploying a large group of heavily armed white police officers is never going to calm an escalating protest in an African American community.
Look at what happened as soon as the state police took over and put Officer Ron Johnson as the intermediary between police and the people. Peaceful protests.
Riot gear and military presence is very intimidating in a peaceful society. When you strip the military down to the basics, it is a man with a gun, excellent for attracting other men with guns.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson stated that the heavily armed military type of officer was out of necessity because he did not want to put his officers in harm’s way.
No one does, but at the beginning of this situation there were certainly troublemakers in the crowd. There were also grandmothers, mothers and children who would have self policed. Shouldn’t the heavy equipment been held in reserve until needed not before there was even a problem?
Another infuriating situation resulting from the Ferguson riots is the media and politicians acting shocked over the heavy weaponry of the local police forces. Where have they been for the past 15 years?
In 1990 Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act.
Section 1208 of the act allows the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.
In accordance with the act, the DoD also sold the equipment cheap.
Recently the police force Watertown, Connecticut, (population 22,514) acquired a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, priced at $733,000, designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, for $2,800. There has yet to be a landmine reported in Watertown, Connecticut.
And now the government is questioning how this could have happened?
For now, Police Chief Jackson has released most of his authority to State Police. Hopefully they will be more capable of figuring out what actually happened and keeping calm in the process.