The US Department of Justice has released its official report regarding the officer involved shooting of Michael Brown last August. The 86 page report includes all evidence submitted during the course of the case including: 3 separate autopsy reports, witness interviews from dozens of witnesses, forensic analysis of bullet trajectories, gunshot residue and DNA, radio transcripts, surveillance footage, toxicology reports, and medical evidence regarding blood collected and injuries sustained by Officer Wilson.
I have read the entire report cover to cover and it indicates without a doubt that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in self-defense and is no way criminally or civilly liable for his death. The report is incredibly detailed and provides insight to a ton of evidence to which the public was not previously privy. To refresh Officer Wilson claims he initially stopped Brown and his friend, referred to in there report as Witness 101, because they were walking in the middle of the street. As he began to drive away he noticed that the two boys fit the description of two males who had just robbed a local convenience store. Wilson then stopped his vehicle in front them to block their path and attempted to exit. Wilson contends that Brown forced the door closed and then attacked him through the window. Wilson went for his gun to protect himself since he was unable to reach his baton or his flash light, and did not want to use mace for fear of incapacitating himself. He felt his gun was his only available option. As he pulled his gun Brown began to try and wrestle it away. Wilson was able to fire two shots from inside the SUV which caused Brown to withdraw and take off running. Wilson paused briefly to call in the situation via radio and then pursued Brown on foot. Brown stopped a short way away, turned, and then began to approach Wilson. Wilson ordered him to “freeze” and “get down on the ground” and Brown ignored the commands. Wilson then fired several shots. Brown continued toward Wilson so he fired again. Brown continued on and Wilson fired a third volley which ultimately killed Brown.
Long story short, the evidence supports Wilson’s account of what happened. I’ll go over the highlights, those of you who wish can read the report for yourselves. First, transcripts of the radio traffic between Wilson and his dispatcher indicate that he knew of the robbery and had a description of the assailants. The transcripts also show that Wilson called for back up as soon as he stopped his vehicle prior to the start of the entire incident. Next, ballistics evidence shows that two shots were fired from inside the vehicle as Wilson said. DNA evidence from Brown’s blood collected from inside the car, and from on Wilson’s uniform and gun indicates that the bullet struck Brown in the hand during the struggle. Medical evidence shows Wilson sustained injuries to his face consistent with being punched hard. Wilson also had scratches on his neck and head and Brown’s DNA was found on Wilson’s collar; additionally Wilson’s DNA was found on Brown’s palms.
Blood evidence collected from the road indicates a clear path of travel of Brown toward Wilson corroborating his claim that Brown charged toward him. Furthermore all three autopsies conclude that Brown was not shot in the back. Autopsies also show no gunshot residue or stippling on Brown which indicate he was not shot at extremely close range. Toxicology reports found no traces of drugs or alcohol in Wilson but did find THC present in Brown. The levels of THC found indicate he had used marijuana within the last few hours and the levels were high enough that Brown would have been impaired at the time of his death.
The report includes details from multiple eyewitnesses who actually saw the shooting take place. Everyone who actually saw the shooting all reported the same story; Mike Brown attacked Wilson through the car window, fled on foot, refused Wilson’s orders to stop, charged back toward Wilson, and was shot dead after multiple gunshots. None of the witnesses who actually saw the shooting reported seeing Brown attempt to surrender or raise his hands at any time. Several other witnesses who saw a portion of the incident provided testimony that supports Wilson’s story. Several more witnesses were found to have provided deliberately false testimony including Witness 101 and Witness 127 who both claimed that Brown was “executed” by Wilson while attempting to surrender. Some even claimed to have seen Wilson standing over Brown’s body while shooting him in the back; these claims were all fraudulent. Witness 127 reported to investigators that he had heard Brown’s last words which he claimed were “don’t shoot”. Several witnesses later recanted their false testimonies, including 127.
The report also explains one troubling aspect of the case which is why Brown’s body lay in the street for several hours after the shooting. It turns out that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) immediately turned the case over to St. Louis County Police Department Bureau of Crimes Against Persons (SLCPD CAP). At the time of the Brown shooting SLCPD CAP was investigating a hostage situation 40 minutes away and were not immediately available. Paramedics were on scene within minutes and according to cellphone video footage they covered Brown’s body with sheets within 20 minutes of his death. His body was left untouched in order to preserve the crime scene until SLCPD CAP could arrived; this is in accordance with standard police procedures. By the time investigators arrived on scene the crowd had become hostile and chants of “kill the police” began circulating. Additionally numerous gunshots were heard nearby and officers felt the area was unsafe. Several additional units were called in from all over the county to secure the area and due to the hostile nature of the crowd the crime scene investigation did not complete until 4:00 pm, roughly 4 hours after Brown’s death. Michael Brown was not left in the street as a warning or terrorist style message as some have contended.
The report does bring to light one very troubling aspect of this case and that is witnesses refusing to honestly report what they saw. The report covers several instances of witnesses lying about what they saw, or didn’t see, because they felt like if they told the truth they would face reprisals from their neighbors. Several other witnesses were hesitant to testify at all for the same reason. Several signs were seen posted in the neighborhood which read “snitches get stitches”. It seems people were so intimidated by members of their own community that they either lied to make Wilson look guilty or refused to come forward with what they knew because it would exonerate him.
By far the most troubling part of this entire case is how quickly false word of what happened spread across the city and the country. People on both sides of the debate were quick to proclaim that they knew exactly what happened even before any of the evidence was made public. People made wild claims about the validity of the evidence, the integrity of the grand jury, the competence of the investigators, and about racially motivated cover-ups and smear jobs. Protests were formed, riots occurred, property was destroyed and additional crimes were committed all over the country in response to what people thought they knew. Indeed I’m sure there are still people out there claiming this report is a lie and cover-up. Some of you reading this right now may be thinking the same. Let us remember that this is a report from the US Department of Justice, not the Ferguson PD or SLCPD or anyone else. The Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, called for this federal investigation and his office signed off on this report.
In the era of social media and instantaneous access to information it’s easy for us to get swept up in what we believe to be the truth. When we allow this to happen we have a tendency to run off half-cocked and angry, and soon bad situations become worse. The protests, the riots, the entire “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement were all based on half-truths, hearsay and outright lies regarding this event. I truly hope that America is able to learn a lesson from this terrible incident. Please stop and think before you act. Wait for the facts to become known before making judgments. Whether it’s a situation like the Brown shooting or a simple internet meme don’t just take someone’s word for it. Conduct your own research, review the facts for yourself. We were extremely irresponsible as a society following this event. Let us all do what we can to try and be a little more responsible in the future.