The signs are that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson isn’t going to be indicted in the slaying of Michael Brown.
Gov. Jay Nixon and top law enforcement officers are mounting an all-hands-on-deck preparedness plan for when the St. Louis County grand jury returns its verdict, which could be in a matter of days.
It’s a damn shame that Ferguson and the St. Louis area will almost certainly be subjected to more rancor and possible violence. None of it had to happen, and wouldn’t have, if Officer Wilson had only approached Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson in a professional manner on Aug. 9.
“Young men, for your own safety, please get out of the street.”
That’s what Wilson should have said, or something like it. But, no, he was part of Ferguson’s Caucasian Cowboy Patrol and undoubtedly used to barking commands and trying to intimidate young black men.
So, his admonition to Brown and Johnson was, “Get the fuck on the sidewalk!”
Nice start to a citizen-police encounter.
And it ended, as we know, with the cops leaving the young man’s body in a pool of blood for hours while they “investigated” the crime scene.
In Wilson’s defense, of course, a lot more information about the nature of the encounter has emerged. For example, Brown apparently reached inside the door of the patrol car and grabbed Wilson’s gun. We know from the video of the convenience store robbery minutes earlier that Brown was full of himself — and maybe under the influence — when he roughed up the convenience store owner and marched away triumphantly with a box of cigarillos that he had appropriated.
We can safely assume that Brown was cocky and feeling invincible when Wilson cut loose verbally on him and Johnson.
What ensued was a clash between a high-handed, arrogant young police officer and an agitated member of a racial group that had long been relegated to second-class status in a white-governed city.
Thankfully, because of what unfolded that August day and all that has occurred since, things are changing in Ferguson and maybe other suburban cities like it.
In my first post on this subject, I predicted that Wilson would be charged with voluntary manslaughter and that he would be convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Obviously, that’s not going to happen. I do hope, however, that as more of these “cop-shooting-unarmed-people cases” come under closer public scrutiny, political leaders and law enforcement agencies will start asking why law enforcement’s first reaction should be to shoot to kill at the first sign of possible bodily harm.
Years ago, when I was living on East 56th Street, the cops one day entered a house on the corner of 56th and Main and shot to death a very troubled young man who was standing in the family living room holding a knife. The cops told him to drop the knife; he didn’t; and they shot.
The young man’s mother, who had called police, was outside. The cops came out and, I guess, told her they had shot her son. Instead of getting help, she got a funeral for her son.
I have never gotten over that incident. It was crystal clear to me and the other neighbors that the cops easily could have defused the situation by backing out of the living room. The boy was not between them and the door, and the cops could have called for back-up and simply waited a few minutes. About the worst that could have happened was the kid would have knifed himself. If he’d come running out of the house, toward them, brandishing the knife, then they could have fired away.
But the mindset that day, as well as on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, was confrontation…
“He could hurt me!”
That’s where the thinking has to change…
Yes, he could hurt me, but if I present him with an alternative where no one has to die, maybe he will take it.
Let’s get to talking along those lines.