Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Interesting Case In Missouri

No doubt everyone has heard about the tragic shooting of 18 year old Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in Saturday. Brown, who the police say was not armed, struggled with a police officer before being fatally shot "multiple times." Community outrage has led to violence; rioting, property destruction, looting, and threats to the police. Many in the community however, including the police, say most of the violence is being perpetrated by people who do not live in the area but are coming in from surrounding communities.

From what I have seen, heard and read, the incident began when a Ferguson police officer said something to Brown and his friend, who were walking down the street on Saturday. There were words exchanged between the boys and the officer which prompted the officer to attempt to exit his vehicle. According to the friend, Brown was standing close enough to the car that the door would not open because the door hit him. The friend says the police officer then reached out the vehicle window, grabbed Brown, and attempted to drag him into the vehicle.

This part of the friend's story makes no sense. I know many police officers and I don't know one of them who would do something that stupid. That's a lose/lose situation for the officer, regardless of the circumstances. My understanding is that Brown was a large man and I reiterate - I don't know of any cop who would, while seated in his vehicle, attempt to drag a suspect into that vehicle through the window.

The witness, and St. Louis County Police (who are investigating the case instead of the Ferguson Police Department) both have said one shot was fired inside the vehicle. The police believe the shot was fired as Brown and the officer struggled for control of the weapon. After the shot was fired it is reported that Brown moved away from the vehicle and the officer got out. That's where the events get fuzzy.

Investigators are now saying it appears Brown was shot multiple times from a distance of 35 feet. Several witnesses have said Brown's hands were up in a position of surrender when he was shot. If that's true the officer will have a very difficult time explaining the shooting, let alone justifying it. Police aren't supposed to use deadly force on a suspect who is not a direct threat to them. If Brown was 35 feet away from the officer and unarmed he was not a direct threat.

I wasn't there so I don't know for certain what occurred and I'm not passing judgement. But based on all the information I have gathered, here is my version of what possibly happened:

The officer approached the two young men and had words with them. He attempted to exit the vehicle and for whatever reason, Michael Brown didn't let him out of the car. Brown then forced his way into the vehicle window. Brown and the officer struggled in some fashion and the officer's gun was fired inside the car. (Police say the officer has an injury to the left side of his face consistent with being assaulted.) Either the officer fired the weapon intentionally or it went off during a struggle for it. We don't know. But at that point Brown decided it was best for him to get away.

Whether or not Brown and the officer struggled for the gun inside the car, the officer ended up with it. He exited the car, gun in hand, and shot Brown several times from a distance of 35 feet, according to the St. Louis County police. Brown died from his wounds.

The investigation is far from over but at this point, given the information available, it appears the multiple shootings of Brown were not justified and the case should eventually be turned over to a grand jury for possible prosecution of the officer. Maybe some new information will turn up, who knows? But it seems, at this point, there is enough evidence to suspect the officer of wrongdoing. Whether it was intentional or in the heat of the moment we don't know either.

Some will no doubt disagree with my assessment - on both sides. And of course, I'm only making conclusions based on information from the media. But that's how I see it. Feel free to disagree and tell me why, if you wish. I'm always open for sound discussion.

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