COLORADO SPRINGS, August 24, 2014 — For 1960s radicals, it’s deja vu all over again; “The Man” killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Anger at injustice boils over, aided by the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — as well as young Communist revolutionaries from Chicago and other activists from around the country. Protests, riots, burning and looting. The good old days of their radical past are back again.
As details in the Michael Brown shooting come to light, however, the situation is far different than what radicals hoped for and the national media portrayed.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. – John Adams, Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770
While radicals try to divide us, the real issue is adherence to the rule of law. Where there is no law, then friends and relatives of Michael Brown would lynch Officer Darren Wilson in revenge for the shooting. But there is a strong tradition in this country of standing for law and order. After all, the American colonists rejected the authority of king and Parliament and declared independence because they felt that crown and government were acting illegally.
The government of the country they founded was beholden to the people. It follows that when a member of the government such as a policeman takes the life of a citizen it is a very serious event. That event must be justified and investigated. A grand jury is doing just that.
Based on what has already been made public, we can reconstruct the broad outlines of what happened on August 9th.
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Michael Brown robbed a convenience store, pushing around a diminutive clerk. He was shortly thereafter stopped by Officer Wilson while walking down the middle of the street. Whether Wilson connected Brown with the robbery at that point is not clear. Wilson was in his car, window rolled down. Brown could have simply walked over to the sidewalk and the confrontation might well have ended there.
But he didn’t. Some details are still sketchy, but it is clear that Brown punched Wilson in the face hard enough to break his eye socket and leave the officer somewhat dazed. There was a struggle for the officer’s gun and one round was fired in the vehicle. The officer tried to get out of the vehicle; Brown pushed him back in and then started moving away.
Again, the exact details are yet to be revealed but Wilson eventually did get out of the police car and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned to face the officer, reportedly taunting him, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” and then rushed the officer from perhaps twenty feet away.
This is the moment of truth. You’ve seen this scenario perhaps a thousand times on TV and in the movies. What is the officer to do? What would you do?
Before answering that question, consider this: Brown was 6” 4”, almost 300 pounds, the size of an NFL linebacker. It does not take very many seconds for a man of his size and speed to cover twenty feet. If you doubt that, go to an indoor shooting range. Set a target at 20 feet, have it come at you and see how many rounds you can fire before it is on top of you. Not many. And by the way, the police train this way.
In this kind of a situation, there is no time to think, no time to hesitate. You’re being charged by someone who’s already just assaulted you. Your life is in danger and your training takes over.
Officer Wilson fired.
Brown is dead; Wilson was taken to the hospital. We don’t know the full extent of his injuries or whether he’s still in the hospital. Both lives are forever changed.
Before you judge either one of these men, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: What could they have done differently — either one of them — to avoid the situation where one man is charging a police officer who has a drawn weapon?
Those are the kinds of questions the grand jury will weigh as the evidence is brought to them. If they decide a trial is warranted, those are the questions a jury must weigh.
Let the facts decide. That’s what it means to live according to the rule of law. That’s the American way.