Friday has been another eventful day in the Michael Brown case out of Ferguson. First and foremost, after days of asking for it, the community was finally given the name of the officer involved in the shooting: Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the force with no prior disciplinary record.
The reason this is vital information and should be considered a public record from the get-go is first, to establish trust and communication with the community about the accountability of the investigation and two, it’s necessary to know if the officer involved had a prior record of abuse or complaints or what have you that would inform his behavior in this incident. In this case, Darren Wilson had no prior disciplinary record.
The second bit of information released was that Michael Brown apparently was involved in a, as the police said, “strong-arm robbery.” They released a video and stills of Michael Brown exiting a convenience store and shoving a small clerk out of the way. However, they then released later that Darren Wilson had no knowledge of the (what I think of as) shoplifting.
So, why release it? It had no bearing on the investigation at hand and it seems to be a way of, as Brown’s parents stated in a press conference, smearing their son’s character. The question still looms whether Darren Wilson under the law was justified in the application of deadly force against Michael Brown. Michael Brown’s character does not and should not factor into that equation.
Now what is noteworthy is this. Just as it would be pertinent to know what’s on Wilson’s record, it’s pertinent to know what’s on the Ferguson Police Department’s record as a whole. This was the charge for this man:
“On and/or about the 20th day of Sept. 20, 2009 at or near 222 S. Florissant within the corporate limits of Ferguson, Missouri, the above named defendant did then and there unlawfully commit the offense of ‘property damage’ to wit did transfer blood to the uniform.”
Seriously, that sounds like some shit out of a Lifetime movie where the evil, villainous small-town police chief makes up some bogus charge on a man he doesn’t like.
Oh, and this individual above was innocent. They had the wrong man. And also, they lied about there being blood on their uniform.
Now moreover, the threshold for officer’s ability to legally utilize deadly force against an individual under Missouri law is absurdly low, according to Reason magazine here.
3. A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force only
(1) When such is authorized under other sections of this chapter; or
(2) When he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested
(a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or
(b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or
(c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.
4. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of justification under this section.
As Peter Suderman says in Reason, this seems incredibly lax:
So, the suspect doesn’t have to be armed, and doesn’t even have to present an immediate threat. Instead, if an officer believes that there’s no other way to make the arrest happen, and also believes that the suspect has attempted to commit a felony, the officer is justified in using deadly force. If a cop wants to arrest someone, and has a “reasonable” belief that the person has even tried to commit a felony, he or she is allowed to kill.
Finally, the Rolling Stones uncovered a particularly interesting Twitter feed from someone live-Tweeting the Michael Brown incident. He seems to suggest that Brown was shot twice in the back and then five times after he turned around, totaling seven shots fired. He even Tweeted this graphic photo:
Check out his feed of the events here.
Someone Tweets him, “Why did they shoot him? To which the witness replies, “No reason! he was running!”
Edit [6:12 PM EST]: Now I’m seeing from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the police chief said Darren Wilson did suspect Brow of robbery. Odd that the story keeps changing:
Jackson said the officer was aware cigars had been taken in the robbery of a store nearby, but did not know when he encountered Brown and Dorian Johnson that they might be suspects. He stopped them because they were walking in the street, Jackson said.
But Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer, Darren Wilson, saw cigars in Brown’s hand and realized he might be the robber.