Here’s Newyorker’s John Cassidy analysis of the Ferguson Shooting and Officer Wilson’s Testimony….
The report gives perspective to the Police officer’s Testimony and the grand Jury’s inability to find him wanting of any crime whatsoever..
Enjoy the read..
On Monday night, the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office released much of the grand-jury testimony relating to the violent death of Michael Brown, including the testimony of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown on the early afternoon of August 9th. As often happens in cases such as these, Wilson’s version of the events raises as many questions as it answers, and it’s worth looking at his account in some detail.
According to the official transcript, Wilson, a twenty-eight-year-old white man from a small town south of St. Louis, was questioned before the grand jury on September 16th, the last of more than sixty witnesses to testify. After confirming that he is six feet four inches tall and weighs two hundred and ten pounds—details that would prove germane to his account—Wilson described the morning of August 9th as a quiet one, which saw him go to the assistance of a sick baby, return to his car, and proceed west along Canfield Drive, a two-way thoroughfare in Ferguson, where he saw two young men in the middle of the street. In his words, they were “walking along the double yellow line, single file,” forcing traffic to go around them. “And the next thing I noticed,” Wilson went on, “was the size of the individuals, because either the first one was really small or the second one was really big.” The “second one”—Brown—also had on bright-yellow socks with green marijuana leaves, Wilson said.
Having established that Michael Brown was a very large man who was jaywalking and wearing pot socks, Wilson described the altercation that ensued when Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, reached his vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe. Rather than ordering them to get off the street, Wilson said, he merely asked them, through an open window, what was wrong with the sidewalk. Dorian replied, “We are almost to our destination,” and pointed to somewhere nearby. According to Wilson, Brown replied, “Fuck what you have to say”—a retort Wilson described as “a very unusual and not expected response from a simple request.”
After that, Wilson said, Brown and Johnson kept on walking. He noticed that Brown was holding a box of cigarillos and wearing a black shirt, meaning that he matched the profile of the suspect in a robbery at a local market, which he had heard about on his radio a bit earlier. Wilson said he radioed for assistance, reversed his car, angled it in front of Brown and Johnson to cut them off, and asked Brown to come over to him, which Brown did. But when the officer tried to open his door to get out, he recounted, Brown said, “What the fuck are you going to do about it,” and slammed the door shut.
From there, according to Wilson’s account, things rapidly deteriorated. After both of them tried to push the door, Brown got it closed and then came at him through the open window, and punched him in the face. Wilson tried to grab one of Brown’s arms to restrain him, he recalled, but “when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” After being punched again, Wilson said, he considered reaching for his mace spray, but he was worried he’d get some of it in his own eyes, which would blind him, “and I would have been out of the game.” So he went for his gun, a Sig Sauer .40 pistol, which had twelve bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber, and said to Brown, “Get back or I am going to shoot you.”
At this point, Wilson testified, Brown “grabs my gun, says, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.’ ” Brown then pushed the gun down toward Wilson’s thigh, the officer went on, and a pulling match ensued, during which Wilson twice tried to shoot the gun, but it didn’t go off. Eventually, it did, blowing out one of the windows and drawing blood from somewhere on Brown’s body. The gunfire startled both of them, Wilson said. Brown took a step back, and then looked up at him with “the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”
Wilson tried to pull the trigger again, he testified, but the gun again failed to shoot, and Brown struck him. Wilson racked the slide on the top of his pistol and squeezed the trigger yet again, this time successfully. “When I look up, I see him start to run, and I see a cloud of dust behind him. I then get out of my car. As I’m getting out of the car, I tell dispatch, ‘Shots fired, send me more cars.’”
Obviously, questions can be raised about the accuracy of this account, which Wilson prepared in conjunction with his defense attorney. But even assuming it’s true, what stands out is that once the second shot had been fired and Brown had started to run, he no longer represented a deadly threat to the officer or to anybody else. He was a large, bleeding, unarmed man running down the street in an attempt to get away. Wilson, who chased after Brown, was the one with the deadly weapon.
They both ran diagonally across the street, Wilson recalled, and Brown eventually stopped next to a light pole. “So when he stopped, I stopped,” Wilson went on. “And then he starts to turn around. I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground.” Rather than acceding to Wilson’s request, he testified, Brown started to run toward him. “As he is coming towards me, I tell, keep telling him to get on the ground. He doesn’t. I shoot a series of shots.” At least one of them hit Brown, Wilson recalled: he said that Brown’s body “kind of jerk or flinched.” Wilson didn’t say how far away from Brown he was when he fired these shots, but he did say that they didn’t stop Brown’s progress. So the officer retreated again and fired more shots, at least one of which hit its intended target: “He flinched again,” Wilson said.
It is worth noting that, according to Wilson’s version of events, Brown had now been shot at least three times: once in the car and twice in the street. But still he kept coming at the officer. “At this point, it almost looked like he was bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him,” Wilson said. “And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.” Wilson said that he backed up again, and, eventually, Brown got to within eight or ten feet of him. “At this point I’m backing up pretty rapidly, I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me,” Wilson said. “And he had started to lean forward as he got that close, like he was going to just tackle me, just go right through me.”
But, of course, Brown didn’t reach Wilson. “I look down, I remember looking at my sights and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot. I don’t know how many, I know at least once, because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean, I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped. When he fell, he fell on his face.”
Just because the grand jury failed to press charges against Wilson doesn’t imply that they believed every element of this story. Wilson’s tale contradicts other eyewitness accounts, including the one provided to the grand jury by Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend. Evidently, however, the members of the grand jury found Wilson’s testimony more credible than Johnson’s.
Johnson, who stood next to Brown during the initial altercation, confirmed that Wilson and Brown had an argument and engaged in a tug-of-war through the open driver’s-side window, but he said that he never saw Brown touch the officer’s gun or punch Wilson in the face. Johnson’s account of Brown’s final moments was also very different than the one Wilson provided. When Brown tried to run away after taking a first shot, Johnson recounted, Wilson ran after him and shot him once or twice from behind. Then Brown turned around, faced Wilson from across the street with at least one of his arms raised, and said, “I don’t have a gun.” Brown was trying to say something else when more bullets hit him, Johnson testified, and he went down. But Wilson kept firing. “Shots was definitely fired while he was going down,” Johnson said. “His knees were, he was going down, he was already down before the last shot came.”
As of yet, none of grand-jury members have emerged to explain their decision not to indict Wilson.