Missouri’s nickname is the “Show Me” state, an ironic message to the police in Ferguson. Oh yes, they are showing who they are, in vivid combat colors.
They are showing plenty of force, but they are not showing the pieces of Michael Brown’s killing to show they haven’t brought this anger on themselves.
They haven’t “shown” the identity of the officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. They haven’t “shown” the autopsy report with the number of bullets pumped into his body by the unnamed officer. They haven’t “shown” why they didn’t bother to interview Dorian Johnson, the 22-year-old with Michael Brown who watched him gunned down in the street. They haven’t “shown” any recognition of what they’ve done here. Or why people just won’t behave the way they want them to.
There is a brief window of opportunity for the government of Ferguson to seize the story, to show why one of theirs didn’t murder some unarmed kid in cold blood. They let that window slam shut, choosing to leave a void where they should have had a narrative. This is a shocking failure, as it’s not hard to come up with a story of minimal detail and marginal credibility to take control of the killing.
The official attempt was tepid at best, that there was a struggle for an officer’s gun in a police car, and “shots were fired.” It was a disgrace to the police playbook, with no claims of prior criminal history, drug-crazed superhuman strength, selling untaxed cigarettes, fear for the officer’s life, whatever. The problem was that there was nothing to support this pathetic story. Too many inexplicable “whys,” and nothing remotely approaching answers.
They abandoned the narrative. They went dark. Nothing could be more condemning than for the police to have nothing to say in justification of the killing of Michael Brown. The absence of a story is the worst story possible.
Then MSNBC spoke with Dorian Johnson, and he offered to fill the void:
The officer demanded that the two “get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “His exact words were ‘Get the f—k on the sidewalk.’ ”
After telling the officer that they were almost at their destination, Johnson’s house, the two continued walking. But as they did, Johnson says the officer slammed his brakes and threw his truck in reverse, nearly hitting them.
Now, in line with the officer’s driver’s side door, they could see the officer’s face. They heard him say something to the effect of, “what’d you say?” At the same time, Johnson says the officer attempted to thrust his door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. Johnson says the officer, with his left hand, grabbed Brown by the neck.
Johnson’s recounting of the initiation of the encounter has the earmarks of truth. The detail. The color. No sanitizing of their own actions.
After firing a shot while sitting inside the cruiser, the officer faced Michael Brown in the street, Brown’s hand in the air, and he executed him. The police in Ferguson didn’t bother talking to Johnson.
This could show that they had no interest in speaking to a witness that wouldn’t help their story, but more likely, this shows that they already knew what the story was. After all, they have the unnamed officer. Just because we don’t know what he had to say doesn’t mean they don’t.
Few will come out and say it, but the media has its story of what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. A cop gunned down a young black man in cold blood in the street because he thought he could. Miffed at the disrespect, impulse took over and adrenalin kept him shooting until Michael Brown, hands raised, fell to the pavement.
Then came the second story of how a police force, without any story to offer, pulled on its combat boots and took to the streets to quell too much sadness, lighting the fire of fury instead. The images, a collection of which are posted by Mark Draughn, show a people under siege.
This is the story, that in a poor suburb of St. Louis, a combat force has seized control by violence and fear to overcome the natural reaction of a community to the murder of one of its children. They showed them. They showed us. It’s all there to be seen. Look at it. Not even the cops can muster an excuse.
As Radley Balko said, with such stunning simplicity when he offered the New York Times image above on twitter, “America.”