Unrest in Ferguson: How to know the facts even when we have no facts

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SAN DIEGO, August 13, 2014 — Reports of protests — both peaceful and violent — from Ferguson, Missouri have grabbed the nation’s attention. But none of the unrest, none of the controversy, and none of the talking heads on cable TV have helped settle the question of exactly what happened to Michael Brown. We know he was a young man shot by a police officer, and that is about all we know.

It’s not that details aren’t being offered. It’s just that the details contradict themselves.

There are two versions to the story. According to some witnesses, Brown, after being ordered by Officer Darren Wilson to stop walking in the street and blocking traffic, was shot for no apparent reason. He was also shot in the worst possible way; execution style. Brown had put his hands up as a gesture of nonresistance and was killed anyway.

In another version, phoned in by a witness to KTFK radio,Wilson tried to get out of his vehicle after ordering Brown off the street and at that time, Brown attempted to to push the policeman back into the car. Moments later, he punched Wilson’s face and attempted to steal his gun. In the midst of this struggle, the gun went off.


Wilson chased after Brown and his friend, shouting an order for them to freeze. At this point, Brown turned around and deliberately needled Wilson, insisting he would not succeed in arresting them. He then charged into the frustrated police officer. At this point,Wilson fired his weapon. There were several shots, including one in Brown’s forehead.

Although the witness who called KTFK identified herself as Officer Wilson’s friend, another source told CNN that her account was accurate. It also fits the official report Wilson gave investigators and explains some of Wilson’s bodily injuries.

On the other hand, Dr. Michael Baden’s autopsy at the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office was unable to find any evidence of a struggle.

Baden’s assistant, forensics consultant Shawn Parcells, described the autopsy as being consistent with  reports about Brown being shot with his hands up.

With such strikingly contradictory reports, one would think that the only definitive news right now is to admit that there is really no news at all, pending further investigation.

Unfortunately, inconclusive reports do not satisfy news ratings, politicians seeking reelection, race baiters, or rebels without a cause.

And so, for those of you desperate for some facts to hold on to, here is a short list of things we have apparently learned even before the investigation is complete:

1) When a white police officer shoots a black man, before we even know the details, we automatically assume that skin color must have been the reason. On the other hand, when an unarmed white man named Dillon Taylor is shot by a police officer described as “not white”(as was reported in a much less sensationalized story in Salt Lake City, Utah) skin color has absolutely nothing to do with it

2) We’ve learned that our judicial process is far too slow and needs to be fixed. The handiest remedy is for the governor of Missouri to simply declare a man guilty or innocent before the trial even starts. Perhaps this will both calm down the protestors and beef up the democratic voting block in one wave of the hand.

In a passionate speech, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said, that “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.”

Had he called for a vigorous investigation, his words would not be so controversial. Instead the governor called for “a vigorous prosecution.”

He also said, “We have a responsibility,to come together, and do everything we can to achieve justice for [Brown’s] family.”

Naturally, the goal of justice implies that somebody was wronged. If Brown’s family needs justice as opposed to merely needing some type of closure, then Governor Nixon is declaring Brown to be an innocent victim.

3)We have learned that miracles still happen. Eric Holder has put the Justice Department on this case, calling for a separate federal investigation instead of relying on the local investigation. Did I miss something? Since when has the key player of Fast and Furious been interested in justice or the rule of law?  Yes, this change of heart must be a miracle. True,  some will ask why Holder is not rushing to Utah just as quickly to investigate that shooting of a white man. Leave it up to the politically incorrect to spoil our moment.

4) Finally, despite all the unrest, we have actually been reminded (courtesy of Al Sharpton) that institutionalized racism is behind us as a nation. There are no more Jim Crow laws. Segregation and job discrimination is against the law. Public perception has also changed as evidenced by the fact that we elected our first African-American president. But who wants to feel like a has-been? Who wants to feel useless and unneeded? Certainly not a self proclaimed civil rights leader.

Speaking at a rally in Ferguson, Sharpton said, “I pledge, with all that I am capable of, to do my duty to stand for justice and for peace, and let Michael Brown be a point in history where we stopped devaluing the lives of people.”

Some interesting statistics from Fox News were recently reviewed by Bill O’Reilly: “In 2012, the last stats available from the FBI, there were about 12 million arrests in the U.S.A. That averages out to 34,000 arrests per day. In 99.9% of those cases, the perpetrator was not killed by police. In fact, just over 400 fatal police shootings a year are recorded in this country, according to the FBI. So, let me restate, 12 million arrests a year, 400 fatal shootings, many of them justified and Al Sharpton has the nerve to insult the American police community, men and women risking their lives to protect us.”

If despite these statistics Sharpton needs to seize upon rare isolated cases, before the investigation has even been completed, it demonstrates that there is not much else for him to do.

Human beings have an uncanny ability to draw conclusions based upon emotion, popularity, or brain washing. We can only hope that the judicial system in Ferguson, Missouri worries less about curtailing further public protests and more about the truth. If not, we run the risk of sentencing a a man who may be innocent, simply because angry crowds do not wish to be confused by the facts.

This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.

 

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.

CNN News, NBCNews, Fox News, WND News, the Minority Report and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Bob Siegel
A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations. In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Parkradio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah. In addition to CDN, Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach. Bob has also published books of both fiction and non-fiction including; I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...and a fantasy novel, The Dangerous Christmas Ornament.
  • Mod

    Mr. Siegel, your column is right on. Contrary to what many ignorant people are writing if a person comes after you with their fists you as a police officer have the right and the responsibility to pull your gun and use it. Nothing is worse than a police officer being disarmed and having their own gun used against them or members of the public.

    So when a officer is being attacked by 6′ 4″ 300 LB man the police officer cannot mess around with hand-to-hand combat and is expected to shoot – and to shoot to kill. Regarding the number of shots it is a fact that most police shootings do seem to involve more than one shot on average. For example, according to a detailed study New York City police fire about 4 times when firing in self-defense.

    We do not now the details of shooting as of yet, but we do know that the lynch mob mentality is reprehensible and should be universally condemned. As of right now officer Darren Wilson is innocent of murder or any other form of criminal manslaughter until real evidence is presented and it is proven otherwise.

  • vhall521

    Bob, you seem very dismissive about a white cop shooting a Black man. You have a tendancy to ignore just how routine it is for law enforcement to use deadly force against black men and how it is so easily justified in the judicial system. We should be equally alarmed regardless of ethnicity, but there is an overwhelmming disparity when it comes to Black males. Thus, Ferguson. Do not dismiss what just happened in their community. Try to understand the concern with this trend, along with stop-and-frisk, Stand-Your-Ground, execution of innocent men, the disparity in the prison population, disparity in drug sentencing (crack vs cocaine), and you might begin to realize that there is a very good reason for the distrust of law enforcement and our judicial system.

  • vhall521

    As a journalist, you should be asking why the Fergusen PD has been so evasive when answering ANY questions regarding the officer’s action. Do they not have a responsibility to their own community to be accountable for the death of a citizen at the hands of one of their officers, which by definition, is a homicide. In ANY homicide, there is no presumed guilt or innocense, but there absolutely must be accountability. The unrest in Ferguson may have been minimized, if not prevented, had the responsible officials come forward with a reasonable account of events within a reasonable amount of time. Instead, it appeared that every effort was made to not only protect the officer’s identity and condition, but to also justify his use of deadly force. They were resposnible for being accountable to the public that they supposedly serve. Failing that responsibility has given cause for outside intervention, such as the Justice Department. You can only expect a rush to judgement when the community is left to form their own opinions due to the lack of information provided by those responsible.