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Opinion Standing by my opinion that ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie

A protestor holds a sign of Michael Brown Jr. after a rally in support of Brown and against police brutality at Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 6, 2014. (Michael B. Thomas/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
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After reading the incredibly flawed story about the latest machinations in the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson, Monique Boea reached out to me via Facebook with a simple question: “How do you feel now?”

Boea was referring to my now two-year-old mea culpa, “‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie.” It was the toughest piece I’ve ever had to write. But I felt obliged to write it because after months of commenting on and writing about the shooting of Brown by Wilson, the DNA and ballistics evidence detailed within the department of justice report on the shooting death of Michael Brown were too concrete to ignore.

“‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie”

Boea believed a Dec. 2016 court document of Wilson’s admissions and denials to specific questions in a civil suit brought by Brown’s parents upended everything known about the case of a white police officer and an unarmed African American male. That’s just not the case.

I took Boea’s challenge as seriously as I did writing that column in March 2015. I  cross-referenced the assertions made in that December document and in the story that compelled her to write me with the DOJ report. If anything, the precision of the questions asked of Wilson and his responses correspond to what’s in the Justice report. A justice department helmed by Eric Holder, the nation’s first African American attorney general appointed by the nation’s first African American president.

The everyday trauma of being a black man in America

“I’m reading through this court document,” Boea wrote on my timeline, “and it is not what Wilson and all involved were saying at the time Michael Brown was murdered.” She highlighted several admissions to make her case. And I answered all of them.

Because her view and concerns are widely held, I share some of them and my responses below. But the bottom line is the admissions and denials by Wilson will not be surprising to anyone who read the DOJ report of the shooting of Michael Brown. And let me add that the newly released convenience store video from the early hours of the day Brown was shot has no bearing on any of this.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch released footage that includes previously unreleased video evidence related to the police shooting of Michael Brown. (Video: Courtesy of the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office)

“There was no robbery.”

The DOJ report: “According to FPD records, at about 11:53 a.m., a dispatcher called out a “stealing in progress” at the address of Ferguson Market.” (Page 22)

“Wilson approached Michael and the person with him with his car and prevented them from moving further.”

Correct. That’s in the DOJ report: “Wilson reversed his vehicle and parked in a manner to block Brown and Witness 101 from walking any further.” (Page 13)

“Wilson admits to grabbing Michael’s arm (That is just how close he came to them with his car)”

Correct. That’s in the DOJ report: “Brown, still with cigarillos in his hand, turned around and handed the items to Witness 101 using his left hand, telling Witness 101 ‘take these.’ Wilson used the opportunity to grab Brown’s right arm, but Brown used his left hand to twice punch Wilson’s jaw.” (Page 13)

“He admits that Michael never tried to take his gun”

Correct. But remember, the statement Wilson admitted to was “Michael Brown never tried to remove your gun FROM YOUR HOLSTER.” (caps for emphasis mine). That is corroborated by the DOJ report: “Wilson explained that his gun, located on his right hip, was his only readily accessible option.” [Page 13] But the DOJ report does note that they did tussle over the gun AFTER it was out of the holster: “Wilson withdrew his gun and pointed it at Brown. Wilson warned Brown to stop or he was going to shoot him. Brown stated, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot,’ and put his right hand over Wilson’s right hand, gaining control of the gun. Brown then maneuvered the gun so that it was pointed down at Wilson’s left hip.” (Pages 13 and 14)

“He admits to not “subduing Michael with other methods (like pepper spray)”

Correct. That’s in the DOJ report: “Wilson explained that he did not carry a taser, and therefore, his options were mace, his flashlight, his retractable asp baton, and his firearm. Wilson’s mace was on his left hip and Wilson explained that he knew that the space within the SUV was too small to use it without incapacitating himself in the process. Wilson’s asp baton was located on the back of his duty belt.” (Page 13)

“He admits that he did not roll up his window to shield himself from be[ing] harmed”

That’s not surprising given what’s in the DOJ report. “Brown placed his hands on the window frame of the driver’s door, and again Wilson told Brown to “get back.” To Wilson’s surprise, Brown then leaned into the driver’s window, so that his arms and upper torso were inside the SUV.” (Page 13)
The Justice Department report on the shooting of Michael Brown forces Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart to face uncomfortable truths. (Video: The Washington Post)

“There was no fight in the SUV and no fight over Wilson’s gun as you stated in your video that I am watching now”

From Page 6 of the DOJ report: “Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm. While there are other individuals who stated that Wilson reached out of the SUV and grabbed Brown by the neck, prosecutors could not credit their accounts because they were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence, as detailed throughout this report.”

“And the rest is just him denying, admitting and objecting the questions…. The story I heard on the day this happened does not match up to what I am reading in this document.”

Please read the DOJ report and do your own cross-referencing. And as you’re doing so, take note of how the questions are asked in the December deposition and what’s NOT asked. For instance, notice that the questioner never asked WHY Wilson didn’t roll up his window. Also notice that Wilson doesn’t volunteer any more information (at least as presented in the docket). Like any defendant, Wilson appears to be only admitting or denying the precise statement posed to him.

“And yet you feel that Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown.”

Legally “justified” and morally “justified” are two different things. Wilson was being judged legally. Given the DNA and ballistics evidence, Wilson was legally justified. Here’s a portion of that DNA evidence in the DOJ report: “Brown’s DNA was found both on the inside and outside of the driver’s side of the SUV. Brown is the source of DNA in blood found on the exterior of the passenger door of the driver’s side of the SUV. Likewise, a piece of Brown’s skin was recovered from the exterior of the driver’s door of the SUV, consistent with Brown sustaining injury while at that door. Brown is also the source of the major contributor of a DNA mixture found on the interior driver’s door handle of the SUV. A DNA mixture obtained from the top of the exterior of the driver’s door revealed a major mixture profile that is 6.9 million times more likely a mixture of DNA from Wilson and DNA from Brown than from Wilson and anyone else.” (Page 21)

“And the mantra “hands up don’t shoot” was NOT built on a lie as you state in your video…. And it was NOT a false narrative…”

As I wrote in my Michael Brown piece: “Yet this does not diminish the importance of the real issues unearthed in Ferguson by Brown’s death. Nor does it discredit what has become the larger “Black Lives Matter.” In fact, the false Ferguson narrative stuck because of concern over a distressing pattern of other police killings of unarmed African American men and boys around the time of Brown’s death. Eric Garner was killed on a Staten Island street on July 17. John Crawford III was killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Aug. 5, four days before Brown. Levar Jones survived being shot by a South Carolina state trooper on Sept. 4. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was killed in a Cleveland park on Nov. 23, the day before the Ferguson grand jury opted not to indict Wilson. Sadly, the list has grown longer.”

“The fact that what he is saying collaborates with the DOJ report does not make it true.”

Correct. I’m not just taking Wilson at his word. The DNA and ballistics evidence in the DOJ report is the deciding factor for me. Please read the DOJ report.

Yes, everyone, please read the DOJ report.

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