Matt Pearce has a year-in-review in the Los Angeles Times on police shootings, which ends in this way:
The opposing accounts of what happened the day Michael Brown died seem to capture the divide that will no doubt continue as debate continues on tactics, body cameras and shooting investigations.
Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up when he was shot. Wilson told investigators Brown was charging at him to attack.
It was a basic disagreement of fact that would foreshadow the much larger debate looming for the nation — on what it means to be black in America, or to be a police officer in America, in which voices from both sides would claim to be betrayed and, most of all, deeply misunderstood.
So there you have it: according to the L.A. Times, there was a “basic disagreement of fact” between “witnesses” (who said Brown’s hands were up), and a single cop, Darren Wilson (who said Brown was charging). You would never know from this piece that there were several witnesses besides Wilson who corroborated Wilson’s claim that Brown had charged him. As this Washington Post article states:
According to transcripts of the grand jury investigation into the deadly encounter in Ferguson, three of the witnesses to the shooting described Brown’s movements as a “charge.”
This Washington Post article collects testimony from various witnesses, who admittedly gave many different versions — but several said Brown had been charging:
- Witness walking to his vehicle parked nearby: “Mike Brown continuously came forward in the charging motion and at some point, at one point he started to slow down and he came to a stop. And when he stopped, that’s when the officer ceased fire and when he ceased fired, Mike Brown started to charge once more at him. When he charged once more, the officer returned fire with, I would say, give an estimate of three to four shots. And that’s when Mike Brown finally collapsed right about even with this driveway.”
- Witness sitting in van with her family: “Then Michael turned around and started charging towards the officer and the officer still yelling stop. He did have his firearm drawn, but he was yelling stop, stop, stop. He didn’t so he started shooting him.”
- Witness driving through the complex in a van with her family: “I thought he was trying to charge him at first because the only thing I kept saying was is he crazy? Why don’t he just stop instead of running because if somebody is pulling a gun on you, first thing I would think is to drop down on the ground and not try to look like I’m going to attack ’em, but that was my opinion.”
While other witnesses said different things, these witnesses were the most consistent with the physical evidence, which showed that all Brown’s wounds were to the front of his body, not the back.* Also, as the first WaPo link above states: “A blood spatter at the scene suggests that Brown moved about 21 feet back toward Wilson after turning around. The pattern of shell casings on the street suggest Wilson was moving backward as he fired at Brown.”
You don’t get any of that from Matt Pearce.
Does he not know that several witnesses corroborated Wilson? Or does he know, but just not want to say?
Either way, this is the sort of irresponsible distortion that helps contribute to an atmosphere of public misunderstanding of the facts — which in turn contributes to the misperception of crazy people who want to take revenge.
The stakes are high, Matt Pearce. Do better.
P.P.S. The piece also fails to mention Michael Brown’s stepfather exhorting a mob to “burn this bitch down” — or Obama dispatching representatives to Michael Brown’s funeral, suggesting that he was on the Brown family’s side, despite all the evidence that Brown caused his own death.
Is anyone surprised?
Thanks to G.H.