Emerging details of what allegedly occurred between a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, and 18-year-old Michael Brown of that same municipality, are so strongly suggestive of murder, that the arrest of the officer involved must be made post haste for justice to be done
There is more than enough evidence to take him into custody and to arraign him on charges appropriate to the offense, which would have to be criminal if this was anything less than a fully justified shooting. Will the District Attorney choose to prosecute? None of us can make that decision for him. Yet, the Federal Justice Department is employing the FBI to learn if a civil rights violation did in fact occur, and is monitoring the fidelity of local justice officials to a proper criminal investigation, along with whether or not the officer doing the shooting was justified where deadly force was used.
Police and county officials in this suburban area of St. Louis, where 70% of the population is black, have confirmed at least this much:
The original altercation with an unarmed young adult male black identified as Michael Brown was over the policeman’s order to move to the sidewalk. We know start to finish Brown was unarmed. Authorities have confirmed that at least two shots were fired at Brown, one from inside the police car, and that one of the two shots struck Brown.
Michael Brown’s decision to run most obviously was over self-preservation, and not any desire to obstruct justice.
The officer pursued Brown in the direction he ran in. Several more shots were fired hitting Brown, and he died at that second shooting scene. There are witnesses to this, and they have yet to be interviewed days after the shooting.
The officer who did the shooting is known, and the results of a full autopsy by the County Coroner’s Office is finished and known. Neither the identity of the police officer or the autopsy results have been communicated to the community. This only raises civic and racial tensions to dangerous levels in and of itself. Full transparency in communicating with citizens about this disturbing case is badly needed.
Police officers nationwide will tell you that murders or deaths must be investigated, and that getting as many of the facts and apprehending guilty parties are best done in just the first 48 hours. That deadline has long past.
It now appears that Brown’s body was left at the scene for some hours. And that the officer concerned whoever he is, did not call for backup in a pursuit where shots had been fired. This is not legally required, but no police departments I know of would tell you this is anything approaching near normal operating procedure. We have all seen police officers wisely call for and get backup on the most routine traffic stop.
Obviously, any police department faced with even the distinct possibility or certitude that one of their officers pursued an unarmed man and shot him down in cold blood, rather than getting backup, continuing the pursuit, and using a level of force well below what was used here raises extremely serious questions about the policing in this town and the county. The treatment of black men by police is most seriously implicated in this case.
Ferguson’s black community see themselves as both a voiceless and featureless population, denied their common humanity and dignity. The case for this voicelessness, vulnerability, and the immense injustice here is so manifest that it need not be made at all. This criminal injustice system, as I call it, shows a level of injustice that is immense in scope.
The larger view here is that black men, as the grandfather of Michael Brown said last night in an interview, seem to have a mark upon them that says to officers “kill me.”
We have driving while black, Trayvon Martin put walking while black into focus, and in so many cases for so many years black men merely existing in places generates a disproportionate amount of policing, and the use of force far in excess of what is required, especially compared to comparable white citizens.
Just a week ago, an unarmed black man violating a New York City ordnance to sell unpacked cigarettes on the street was put into a fatal choke hold, when three or even four officers were there who assisted the officer using the choke hold to make the arrest. It should be factually noted that chokeholds have been barred from policing in the city entirely for some time. That case is being investigated, with a looming expectation that the officer employing the chokehold will not be held accountable. This case is not necessarily murder, but acts which led to the death of an unarmed man. That man was a large black man. So the arrest by multiple officers was fully justified if they did have more than reasonable concerns that his arguing with them necessitated an arrest.
There have been far too many black men shot down, brutally killed in so many cases where this level of force is, on its face, not justified, that our perceptions as a society of adult black men or even teenage boys by police connected to the policing itself is a national issue that must be addressed now.
What can I say about this state of affairs? Any sentient being occupying these United States knows full well that police routinely use excessive force in thousands upon thousands (but not all) interactions they have with black men.
It has been open season on black men from the white dominant society from the first time they arrived in 1619 as slaves in Jamestown, Virginia. This is NOT a question of force used to apprehend dangerous criminals, who in truth do exist among citizens of all colors and backgrounds.
The salient point to be made here is that these acts plainly violate both their Constitutional rights as citizens, and more important still, the human rights extended to us all by our Creator.
Thomas Martin Saturday
for Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”