When I first read the story of how the confrontation between Michael Brown and the police of Ferguson, Missouri ‘went down,’ I really found the police story hard to believe.
Yes, there is no video (that we know of) of the shooting. But what we did know a few days ago was this: Brown, a recent high school graduate and college-bound young man, a man with no previous criminal record to speak of, got into some kind of verbal altercation with a police officer and was suddenly gunned down. The police story just didn’t seem credible, that Brown’s defiance turned violent, and that Brown’s killing was justified on the grounds that he was in the process of tackling a police officer and grabbing for his gun. It just didn’t add up. Frankly, it sounded like a classic piece of character assassination to justify an actual assassination in a city where African-American males face constant harassment from local law enforcement.
But then there was the video, and a new set of facts had to be dealt with.
Earlier on that fateful day of his death, Brown and a few friends marched into another nearby convenice store and committed a series of crimes – crimes that I witnessed – that reveal a malevolent, even murderous side. Upon entering the store, Brown proceeded to help himself to several expensive cigars and then started to walk out. He was clearly pursued by an attendant (the owner?) and confronted.
Now up to this point, it was a simple case of shoplifting. Shoplifting is a crime, of course, but that’s not my point. It is what happened next was far more serious. When the middle aged, far smaller attendant spoke to him, Brown began to strangle him. He proceeded to do this for a few seconds. Then, immediately afterward, he casually turned to walk out. But that wasn’t the end. The attendant said something more – we don’t know as there was no recorded sound – and Brown again moved forward towards his victim. At that moment he got distracted – perhaps Brown had noticed the children and others witnessing the event – and again turned around and fled.
We have a word in the law to describe the exact kind of assault Brown committed. It’s called Felony Strangulation. Yes, strong armed robbery it was, but once you put strangulation in with the mix, it’s almost like a ‘special circumstance.’ It creates a far more heinous act, one that, in terms of the law, is almost akin to attempted murder. And he did it. There’s no doubt. I saw it. I replayed it. I saw it again. Brown, in the process of his intimidating tactics, could have very well killed that man, a man far older and weaker than he was. All Brown cared about was getting away. And he did.
Now all of these crimes that I just mentioned are not necessarily capital offenses, and would not justify being gunned down in cold blood by a police officer in any circumstance. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is whether or not the police account of his death has any credibility. Well, judging on what I’ve witnessed, I’d say it went from zero credibility to extreme credibility.
In fact, what the police described in their version of his death was almost the exact same set of circumstances that occurred earlier in the day, except this time Brown faced armed police personnel instead of a helpless middle aged store attendant/owner. So it flipped the equation completely from my perspective.
More information will be forthcoming, of course, with further interviews and ballistic tests, etc. But judging from what I saw, I would not classify the late Mr. Brown as any sort of altruistic fellow, a young man intent on working hard and respecting himself and others. I would classify him as a person who was a thief and a man who would have killed anyone with his bare hands who stood in his way to hold him responsible for his actions.