A new video that was part of a documentary cast doubt on one of the prevailing narratives of the Michael Brown case, that he committed a strong-arm robbery. However, new testimony from former police officer Darren Wilson casts doubt on even more of the story that was sold to Americans as what really happened on that fateful summer day in Missouri in 2014.
In March of 2015, soon-to-be Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani described it this way on Fox News:
What happened in Ferguson is that a man committed a robbery, attempted to assault a police officer, and the police officer—to save his life—shot him. The police officer did his duty. The officer should be commended for what he did.
However, testimony from Wilson released as part of the civil suit against him reveals that this narrative is dubious. In his remarks, Wilson admits to using racial slurs, hearing other officers use racial slurs, that he grabbed Brown unprovoked, that he washed evidence off of his hands, that he cleared his own weapon (which was evidence), and (perhaps most importantly) Michael Brown never once went for his gun.
In the above screengrab, you can clearly see that not only did Brown not attempt to grab the weapon, Wilson’s defense is that the six-and-a-half foot-tall teenager was a walking deadly weapon. By this logic, it could be argued that police are justified in shooting to kill anyone who fits this description.
Also, since he was the first person to initiate physical contact with Brown, this casts his physical altercation with the man who killed him in a new light. He was not some raving madman trying to murder this police officer who kindly told him and his friend not walk in the street, but did react violently upon being grabbed by the officer.
Wilson refused to admit that one of his shots missed Brown and the bullet embedded in a nearby building, even though forensic evidence confirms this. He also admits that Brown ran away after he fired his first shot and then stopped and faced him again after the second. Eventually, Brown shot him in the face and kept firing anyway.
Finally, Wilson admitted he’d been accused of using excessive force and violating citizens’ civil rights in the past. He also admitted “to using the word ‘nigger’ to refer to an African-American on at least one occasion.” Wilson admitted this, but said that he was simply repeating a remark made by someone else.
“I have not made a racist remark against another individual while on duty as a police officer,” he added through his attorney.
With the exception of the racist remark, this is all information that was previously known however Wilson’s defenders denied. Now that it’s in his own words, that’s a harder position to take.
Of course, fighting with a police officer is against the law (as is bartering what could be pot for $20 worth of cigars), but these new details provide context that push back against the narrative that the recent high-school graduate was a violent thug was all-but destined to kill a police officer had Wilson not stopped him.
An 18-year-old kid physically resisting being grabbed by an aggressive police officer is a much different circumstance, at least in hindsight, than one who is going for an officer’s gun. The idea that he committed a strong-arm robbery (unarmed) helped to sell the idea that Brown was dangerous, despite his having no criminal record.
The right to life and liberty are the most basic ones Americans have. Protecting those rights, even for people who aren’t completely innocent in their own actions, is not asking that police to be exposed to excessive risk or potential for harm. Rather, it’s a discussion we must always have about how those we imbue with the power to limit those rights don’t abuse that power.
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