At a certain point in the story, Michael may well have been able to just pay for what he had stolen, apologize to the shop-owner, and get away with only the lightest of sentences, if indeed any at all, depending on his past criminal record, if any.
I am not suggesting that the act of stealing anything, coupled with not heeding the request of a police officer to get out of the road, deserves the end result of being shot and killed. What I AM suggesting is that all actions have consequences, and what Officer Wilson did — however horrendous it may be in the eyes of those who choose to see it as a totally unnecessary act and even perhaps one of a deliberate prejudiced White police action against a Black male — was in the line of duty. What Michael did was in the line of his being a thief, a bully, an antagonizer and an instigator. No one can say that any of what Michael did that tragic day was right: stealing is not right; shoving an innocent person just because he felt like it or the person was in his way is not right; and whether or not one likes police officers or wants to obey them, even if one wants to show off or stir up a confrontation, walking in the road is not an okay thing to do for safety’s sake — one’s own and that of any driver on the road — and it certainly turned out not to be an okay thing for Michael. He was wrong on all counts, placing himself into the situation in which Officer Wilson felt the need to shoot.
Imagine a play, based on reality, that no one would ever want to have to write and no one would ever want to have to see.
The one-act tragedy: A Killing in Ferguson The main players: Officer Wilson, an on-duty cop; Michael Brown, the victim-to-be Setting: Downtown Ferguson, a relatively small town in St. Louis County, MO Basic Plot: Officer Wilson, an on-duty police officer going about his usual duties, comes upon a young man and his friend walking in the street; he asks them to get on the sidewalk and they refuse. The officer quickly learns that one of them is a suspect in a theft down the street and attempts to apprehend the suspect. The suspect, who is seen to be guilty — carrying the stolen merchandise in his hand and fitting the literal detailed description of the thief — rebels against the apprehension, perhaps displaying bravado against the officer’s demands. The incident escalates to the point of the officer feeling the need to employ his weapon in self-defense; the suspect’s continued bravado and/or arrogance in refusing to obey leads to the officer discharging his gun. After several shots at the rebelling and aggressive (not surrendering) suspect, the thief is brought down.
Beyond the Plot: The body of the suspect lays on the street for over four hours after the fatal shooting. No one seems to know why. The officer involved goes into hiding or seclusion and does not make a public statement for weeks. Public outcry turns into a movement against the police officer and for the “cause” of Michael Brown to receive justice. Weeks go by, awaiting the results of an investigation including several autopsies and the conclusive findings of a grand jury’s decision based on witnesses’ reports and the facts surrounding the shooting. The grand jury concludes there is no evidence on which to indict Officer Wilson in the shooting. Riots and out-of-control protesting takes place in Ferguson. It escalates into vandalism, looting and pillaging of the businesses in that town, as well as the burning of some buildings and police cars. Protesters are upset that the National Guard did not step in in a timely manner to protect those businesses from the protesters-turned-vandals’ own outrage and their own uncontrolled emotions. (How sad that the town needed help to save it from the violence and looting inflicted upon it by their own citizens. It’s as though they were saying, “We need help to save us from ourselves!”)
Note: Michael Brown was not and never had been an activist for equal rights or against police brutality. He was an arrogant (based on his now-known behavior) young man who apparently disliked the police.
Unfortunately, his own attitude — after the fact of his shoplifting those cigarillos — led right to the door of his own death. Sadly, he is now “honored” by being attached to the latest symbol for police brutality and injustice: the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” stance supposedly used by Michael just before he was shot and killed. The grand jury and its intensive inquiry into the facts surrounding this shooting did not at all support some witnesses’ statements that Michael had his hands up when he was shot. But for those of us who were not there, we cannot say. We want to side with the best presentation of facts, and the “Hands up” testimony did not seem to ring true for the jury members. Now Michael is a poster child for rallies and protests and demonstrations all across this nation, right up to the White House, to achieve an end that should never have needed all this help in the first place, and it all started because he was a petty thief and a bold and arrogant law-breaker who got himself killed.
The cause of justice and equality at the hands of police is a noble cause, but it has been taken up time and again and should no longer need such drastic action; that kind of justice and equality should already exist throughout this nation — even though we know it does not. (It doesn’t exist here in Las Vegas; and back in N.Y. years ago, Frank Serpico took up that cause as well.) But once the facts have been given over to a grand jury and a decision is reached — by 12 independent members of the community who had already been in place and were not chosen for this case in particular — to demand, by words and demonstrations, that they change their decision, is to believe that justice should be up for grabs to those who cry the loudest and gather the most supporters along the way. Manipulated justice due to giving in to public opinion is NOT justice. Many years ago that kind of justice was called lynching.
In the meantime, the battle hymn seems to be: Let’s crucify Officer Wilson because he deliberately shot and killed a Black man when he didn’t have to. (Let’s totally ignore the fact that shooting someone “deliberately” is not a bad thing when repelling an aggressor, stopping a would-be attacker, or what anyone who pulls out a gun would do when faced with an imminent danger or threat against their own safety or life.) Let’s protest so hard that the whole nation will catch the “Michael Brown fever” and join the protest against police brutality and injustice. (One might expect uprisings and protests against the police in certain towns, including Las Vegas, for police brutality, unjustified killings and injustice above and beyond the call of duty, but one would NOT expect protesting and uprisings IN FAVOR OF a person who brought the consequences into his own life by his own deliberate and unlawful actions, as was found in the case of Michael Brown, based on the full examination of the facts by the grand jury.)
One would think the death of the person is the worst of the deal — and of course, it may well be — but how things are handled after the fact, when the tensions and the passions are subdued, and it is easier to think, and time is not pressing upon you like an elephant on your chest…that is when everyone expects some kind of common decency for those who had to witness the event, or for those who knew or loved the victim, or for those who would come to the scene to see what happened… and that is when the police and those “in charge” of the scene make the biggest impression on those who are there — and the impressions left in Ferguson were beyond horrific.
Yet the shooting is still the big issue.
Unarmed is always the big word being thrown around, as though only having an “official” weapon (such as a gun or a knife) would qualify
as placing that officer in a position of being in fear for his life.
But WHAT IF everything Officer Wilson said was true and that Michael Brown was in the act of lunging at him with the intent to not only harm him but perhaps kill him? WHAT IF what Officer Wilson saw in Michael’s eyes and written on his face, coupled with Michael’s strong, young advancing body in the attack mode was perceived as the weapon against which the officer had to defend himself? What Black person in Ferguson — if the roles were reversed and some younger-and-larger-than-they-
Are the residents of Ferguson “big enough” to allow justice to prevail, even if it means they have to agree with the grand jury?
After all, isn’t this whole protest really about justice, and not about the remaking of Michael into some saintly Martin Luther King clone?
The whole country is watching Ferguson. Why not let genuine justice for all concerned begin right there!
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, emailher at firstname.lastname@example.org.