From the very beginning, this was much ado about an aberration, a tragic aberration to be sure, but an aberration nonetheless.
Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Immediately, according to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, witnesses began to give different versions of what happened.
The apparent would-be star witness, Dorian Johnson, was with Brown when the shooting occurred. He gave a dramatic account of a trigger-happy bigoted cop who shot “my friend” in the back and gunned him down despite the victim attempting to surrender by placing his hands up. Other alleged eyewitnesses came forward with similar, if not identical, descriptions of an aggressive, out-of-control cop.
Several witnesses, according to McCulloch, later changed their testimony, with some admitting that they really didn’t see the incident — just heard about it and so filled in the blanks in their own mind. And some witnesses were simply proven wrong by the physical evidence. Others corroborated the officer’s account.
McCulloch explained why more information wasn’t released in a “timely” fashion: “Those closely guarded details, especially about the physical evidence, give law enforcement a yardstick for measuring the truthfulness of witnesses.” McCulloch explained that a trail of Brown’s blood led from the police car, and was found 25 feet farther away from where Brown’s body lay — suggesting Brown turned and came toward Wilson, as the officer said. “Physical evidence,” said McCulloch, “does not change because of public pressure or personal agenda.”
After summarizing the evidence, McCullough ended his press conference with a note of hope. He said don’t let this “fade away ... we have to keep that discussion going.”
But the “discussion” we should have is one we rarely do — that is, about absentee black fathers, poor education and urban crime.
Ironically, in Wisconsin just three weeks ago, Milwaukee police Chief Edward Flynn was being criticized for inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. Flynn, during a police commission meeting related to an officer-involved shooting, was on his cell phone. Didn’t he appreciate the gravity of this hearing? Later, at a press conference, he was asked why he was rude.
The chief said: “Well, I was on my phone, yes. That is true. I was following developments with a 5-year-old girl sitting on her dad’s lap who just got shot in the head by a drive-by shooting. If some of the people gave a good goddamn about the victimization of people in this community by crime, I’d take some of their invective more seriously.
“The greatest racial disparity in the city of Milwaukee is getting shot and killed — hello! Eighty percent of my homicide victims — every year — are African-American; 80 percent of our aggravated assault victims are African-American; 80 percent of our shooting victims who survive their shooting are African-American.
“Now, they know all about the last three people who have been killed by the Milwaukee Police Department over the course of the last several years. There’s not one of them that can name one of the last three homicide victims we’ve had in this city. ... But this community is at risk all right, and it’s not because men and women in blue risk their lives protecting it. It’s at risk because we have large numbers of high-capacity, quality firearms in the hands of remorseless criminals who don’t care who they shoot.
“Now I’m leaving here to go to that scene. I take it personally, OK? We’re going up there, and there’s a bunch of cops processing a scene of a dead kid. And they’re the ones that are going to be out there patrolling and stopping suspects that may have guns under the front seat. They’re the ones that are gonna take risks to their lives to try to clean this thing up, all right?
“We are responsible for the things we get wrong, and we take action. We’ve arrested cops, we’ve fired cops and so on. But the fact is, the people out here, some of them — who had the most to say — are absolutely MIA when it comes to the true threats facing this community. It gets a little tiresome, and when you start getting yelled at for reading the updates of the kid who got shot, yeah, you take it personally, OK?”
Meanwhile, in an exchange with black MSNBC pundit Michael Eric Dyson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the Ferguson killing a rarity. He argued that the “heavy policing” in black areas results from the need to address black crime: “I find it very disappointing that you’re not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. We’re talking about the exception. ... I would like to see the attention paid to that, that you are paying to (Ferguson). ... It is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community. ... The white police officers won’t be there if you weren’t killing each other.”
Dyson’s response? “This is a defensive mechanism of white supremacy at work in your mind.” Well, at least we’re “keeping the discussion going.”