Questions and Answers

mbrownQuestion 1. So Hal, what exactly did Darren Wilson do wrong? Shade.

Answer 1. Shade, based on Wilson’s statements, this is what I believe he did wrong.

A) On his own, Wilson aggressively confronted two very young men – one of whom was uncommonly large – in a way that forced them to either back down or escalate.  Dorrian Johnson backed down but Michael Brown escalated.  Wilson could should have approached in a friendly way ostensibly trying to get information after he had called for backup.

B) After Brown reached into the police car trying to grab Wilson’s weapon, Wilson succeeded in driving him off then correctly called for back up.  Next however, the officer unnecessarily exited his vehicle and chased Wilson thereby setting the stage for the kill shots.  Instead, Wilson should have waited for backup so Brown, if he was still in the area, could have been approached by law enforcement from different sides.

C) If Brown escaped for the moment, so be it, Wilson had the opportunity to canvass the neighborhood looking for him and Johnson.  Remember, Wilson had good reason to believe they were videoed at the convenience store.

D) After Brown allegedly turned towards Wilson, Wilson could have backed up with his gun trained on Brown while speaking calmly to Brown hoping to defuse the situation.

E) In a post-grand jury interview, Wilson refused to acknowledge any remorse or even sadness over the killing.

At every turn Wilson inflamed an ever more dangerous situation forseeably ending in his employment of deadly force.  This does not prove that Wilson broke the law but it does mean that he is far from blameless.

Question 2. But, aren’t you concerned that by criticizing Wilson, you will alienate working-class whites who are on the cop’s side?

Answer 2. Sure I’m concerned. I’m also concerned that I might be alienating more liberal people of all colors who are convinced that Wilson deliberately executed Michael Brown because he is black. They would greatly prefer that I call for the immediate resignation of Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and Wilson’s arrest despite the grand jury’s refusal to indict. Look, I hate everything about this situation. I hate the fact that an unarmed 18-year old was shot to death. I hate that the cop filled him up with lead. I hate the fact that the Prosecuting Attorney didn’t appoint a special prosecutor given that he appeared to be trying to give the grand jury every reason not to indict. I hate the fact that this case cleaves apart various groups who should be united against corporatist government. But, I have to call it as I see it and that’s what I have done.

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6 Responses to Questions and Answers

  1. Shade says:

    A) “confronted two very young men – one of whom was uncommonly large – in a way that forced them to either back down or escalate”
    Cops confronting people for common offenses such as jay-walking or driving infractions is an everyday occurrence. Per Thom Hartman, Wilson’s supervisor testified that Wilson was NOT aware of the liquor store strong-arm robbery at the time he first approached Brown and his friend (but once he engaged them & saw the cigarillos he knew, which is why Wilson said what he did to the Grand Jury).

    “Wilson could should have approached in a friendly way…”
    I agree Wilson might have done better on this one, but Brown wasn’t acting rationally so who knows for sure. I suspect Brown was mentally ill – or in the street vernacular, he was an angry Black man (and Wilson was a White cop).

    “…ostensibly trying to get information after he had called for backup.”
    What do you think Wilson’s supervisor would say about him calling for backup for a pair of jaywalkers? Now if Wilson truly knew that these two were suspects for the liquor store robbery BEFORE he approached them, I agree that backup should have been immediately called – but I don’t think that was the case.

    B-C) After shooting Brown for reaching through the car window for his gun, “Wilson succeeded in driving him off then correctly called for back up. Next however, the officer unnecessarily exited his vehicle and chased Brown…” “If Brown escaped for the moment, so be it…”
    I don’t think you will find it Standard Operating Procedure that after a cop shoots someone (who is apparently unarmed), he lets them run off & disappear (or worse, the perp is thereby allowed time to enter a residence where hostages could be taken & innocents might get hurt). Check into that with a reliable source like Sheriff Miller (but not with Fred – I love Fred but he blows too much smoke…)

    D) “After Brown allegedly turned towards Wilson, Wilson could have backed up with his gun trained on Brown while speaking calmly to Brown hoping to defuse the situation.”
    For whatever reason, Brown was not acting rationally. When Brown saw that Wilson had successfully run him down, he turned around and charged Wilson head first, apparently trying to tackle him. This is how Brown got killed with an upper head shot – cops normally shoot for the torso because it offers the largest surface area. Brown was either “touched in the head” of he was suicidal. Ever hear of “suicide by cop”? It’s not an uncommon maneuver from the mentally ill when they are confronted by a cop.

    E) “In a post-grand jury interview, Wilson refused to acknowledge any remorse or even sadness at”
    Agreed it initially seemed that way , but Wilson may be trying to convince himself of this as much as anybody else. I don’t believe Wilson was unaffected in spite of what he appeared to say during the interview. Invariably cops are affected, even if they deny it (and they must get counseling).

    Obviously Wilson understands little about public relations or dealing with the press (with their emphasis on sound bites that can & often are be taken out of the context in which the comments were meant to address). If Wilson had been asked if he was sorry he had to kill Brown, I think the answer would have been different (& Wilson said as much at a later point).

    I’ll address “answer 2” later. Have to get some sleep, it’s been a long weekend & have to work today.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Shade – it’s obvious that you are interpreting every fact in a light most favorable to the cop. Regarding when to call for backup, every time officers take action, they should let their supervisors know. This is especially the case when one cop is investigating a possible robbery involving two suspects. Regarding the decision to exit the vehicle, given Brown’s previous action, the cop was absolutely not obligated to pursue Brown by himself. As you have pointed out, Wilson could have counted on a quick response to his call for backup. Regarding the kill shot to the head, your explanation is that Brown was preparing to charge the cop. Another – more likely one – is that the teen was collapsing from the repeated bullets into his body from Wilson’s gun.

    • Shade says:

      Woke to the last 60 seconds of your rant in my ear. Will playback later & may respond but going back to sleep now.

      Re your response above: Per Thom Hartman, Wilson’s supervisor testified that Wilson was NOT aware of the liquor store strong-arm robbery at the time he first approached Brown. It wasn’t until after Wilson made contact that he recognized the two Black young men were suspects. Apparently Wilson was NOT guilty of profiling & thinking that all two Black kids together were suspects in the robbery.

      Could Wilson have done better given 20/20 hindsight – sure. So could you and I on most everything we do, and look how constant the threats are to a cop. You expect too much.

      Once Wilson made contact, things escalated almost immediately out of control & the first shot occurred. When Brown then ran off, following him was in order as Wilson was not in serious danger (Brown had never displayed a weapon) & it was important to keep the suspect from getting away. Check with Sheriff Miller on that point, though I doubt he will respond (in part because I doubt he has time to follow the case closely enough to publicly comment). Wilson was safe in following from a distance. If the suspect did turn around attack… well that is why cops carry guns.

      Even if Wilson had waited, the outcome would likely have been the same – worse if Brown was given the opportunity to take cover in somebody’s house and this then involved innocents or hostages. Remember too that Wilson wasn’t calling for backup from a team of psychiatrists! Wilson’s call was for more cops with guns. Remember too that Brown’s ultimate response to a display of force was to commit “suicide by cop”. That is almost impossible for cops to deal with unless they somehow know in advance that this will be the suspect’s response.

      • Shade says:

        Need an edit button, especially when writing while half-asleep. (Got about 3 hours sleep last night & not much all weekend.) Should have said:

        Wilson’s supervisor testified that Wilson was NOT aware of the liquor store strong-arm robbery at the time he FIRST approached Brown. That Wilson didn’t automatically think that the two young Black men were guilty of some crime goes a long way towards explaining why Wilson didn’t immediately call for backup before shouting at the two young men to get out of the street. To Wilson, the initial contact with the two young men was no big deal, but then things almost immediately escalated out of control.

        At some (unknown) point Wilson became aware the two young men were suspects in the strong-arm (no weapon) robbery (as Wilson later testified that he knew the two were suspects). However, it isn’t clear when Wilson was informed of the robbery and/or when Wilson made the connection in his mind.

        One also has to remember that Wilson was not that experienced a cop – he was a rookie plus two years. My job is a much easier in many ways (for similar pay) & after 17+ years I’m still learning every day.

        Was there some testilying on the issue of when Wilson became aware of the strong-arm robbery? Perhaps. I may change my opinion to match yours about the appropriateness of Wilson’s actions if someone can show that Wilson lied in a way that put a favorable light on actions that then become clearly inappropriate. (Unfortunately. another societal ill is that testilying is common- if not actually expected/demanded. It doesn’t automatically mean the cop’s actual actions were totally inappropriate. I see similar abuses where I work & hate it, but it is a reality of life & we are both powerless to change it. Badge & car cameras would help.)

    • Shade says:

      OK Hal, I found an article that seems to fairly well present both Wilson’s and (Brown’s friend) Johnson’s side, something that up to this point I hadn’t found concisely assembled well enough together that I was willing to take the time to read & comprehend. http://www.vox.com/2014/11/25/7287443/dorian-johnson-story I don’t think many other partisans in this matter have taken the time to understand the two perspectives either, except for the Grand Jury, who’s opinion I feel it is best for our country’s well being to accept. And no, if the prosecutor was elected to serve, I don’t feel he needs to recuse himself every time a case involving a cop shooting a perp comes along.

      I previously didn’t care to even consider taking Brown’s side at all – he is not a sympathetic figure, especially to someone like me that spent much of his formative years in fear being bullied. Also. I felt Brown’s actions at the liquor store weren’t that far removed from what I suspected Wilson might have actually done.

      The truth in this matter probably lies closest to whichever of the two stories (in this article) at any specific time shows the worst in human behavior. However, it is unclear if Wilson outright committed murder or if at some points, he really felt his life was in danger. Even if the Grand Jury had felt the case should go to trial, I don’t think we would have ever found out for sure. And that makes this case one on which we are unlikely to win the hearts and minds of the general (red state) voting public, something that we as Liberals so desperately need at this point. Better to keep the subject of race relations more general in nature, like when you focus on our country’s socio-economic inequalities (that we can also successfully argue results in unnecessary inner-city crime). And Obama’s focus on cops wearing cameras is good.

      So I admit the cop’s actions aren’t pretty, though this is hardly a surprise. The law-enforcement field generally doesn’t attract those we might want most to serve, and even decent sorts are likely to become jaded and perhaps even racist profilers after being on the job for some time. Any Black man, or any person for that matter, is suicidal to take on a cop in the way that Brown did – even if Brown didn’t do much of what Wilson claims. The cop has a badge & a legal gun. If you try to take him on anywhere except possibly in court, you are going to lose. Sadly, what Brown lost was his life, and ultimately that was his fault.

      • halginsberg says:

        Thanks Shade. It seems we’re now in pretty close to the same place. I’m less confident that the grand jury got things right but certainly not convinced it got things wrong. Regarding whether the Prosecutor should voluntarily recuse himself whenever there’s a possible police criminal defendant, that’s not my argument. My argument is that there should be a politically insulated attorney whose solely responsible for prosecuting such cases because they always create inevitable conflicts.

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