“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
I’ve been painting the house of late, and have had little spare time to blog. This is my first attempt to get my thoughts down in writing for several months. But, with Ferguson MO in an uproar around the Michael Brown shooting, it seemed like a good time to get back in.
First, the obvious – this is bad. An unarmed kid was shot dead by a police officer. That’s just not a good situation. Forget for a moment the riots, property destruction, police crowd control tactics and tear-gassing of protesters and journalists (and the intentional dismantling of journalist equipment). Eighteen year-old Michael Brown’s life has ended. That’s horrific.
Something of the sadness of this has been lost in the back & forth about what actually happened that day.
Then there is the “what happened” question. Were Brown and Dorian Johnson running away from officer Darren Wilson or was Brown charging Wilson? I don’t know, and accounts differ. Did Wilson confront Brown and Johnson for walking in the middle of the street, and then return after hearing an APB regarding the convenience store robbery, or did he get confrontational because he felt disrespected by the teens? I don’t know, and accounts differ. Was Wilson so amped up after the initial confrontation that he fired his weapon without cause? I don’t know.
In some regards we’ll never know the thoughts and intents of the heart. The police department as well as the Department of Justice will do an investigation. Without knowing the information they’ve already collected, I have to say that the eventual results seem to be trending in a clear way. To date, the physical evidence (as I understand it) is consistent with officer Wilson’s account. This doesn’t mean he’s telling the whole truth, it simply means that the physical evidence doesn’t contradict his story. Such a contradiction would be quite useful in a legal proceeding. (The same was true in the George Zimmerman trial – whether Zimmerman was lying or telling the truth, neither the evidence nor the witnesses could contradict him; which is why there were no charges initially.) I expect no charges from the local municipality or from the state.
The DoJ investigation is another issue altogether. Back in the Zimmerman trial, folks were fairly certain that violation-of-civil-rights charges would come from the DoJ, but it never happened. Perhaps they couldn’t build the case, who knows? In this case my understanding is that the Federal government has 90 days from charges to trial, by law, so one shouldn’t expect charges soon as it starts the clock.
As a mental exercise, without knowing the actual events, it is useful to consider the “what if” – what if either side is telling the truth. If Dorian Johnson is correct in his description of officer Wilson’s behavior and engagement of Brown, well, it is appalling and nobody should feel safe in Ferguson. If Darren Wilson is correct in his description of the events, the confrontation, being punched, Brown grabbing for his gun, Brown turning and charging him – then one has to suspect that he acted reasonably in opening fire. I point this out because so many people on the TV these days claim to “know” exactly what happened, even though they know exactly as much as I do, which is not much.
So what happens next? Without any evidence to support my claims, I will add that I think the “no charges” result is already baked in. The National Guard has been deployed well ahead of time to be on station in case of riots. And, I suspect there will be riots. (Of course, I suspected the same thing after the Zimmerman verdict, and was proven wrong.)
It’s also fairly clear that the Ferguson PD has lost the ability to “serve and protect” in the community. There is zero trust. That will take a major overhaul of the department and I suspect a long period of state and county jurisdiction over the policing functions.
Tomorrow we’ll try to take up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s oped on the “coming race war [which isn’t about race]“. He makes some interesting points. For now though, we’ll continue to watch events unfold and see what the night brings.
Be safe out there.