The Smearing of Michael Brown (Update x2)

There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.

–Sir Joshua Reynolds

The only thing surprising about the press conference held by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson was that it took so long to happen.  It was nearly a week before they pulled the standard tactic that has traditionally held great sway over the hard-of-thinking: Smear the victim.

Maybe it took them that long to come up with “strong-arm robbery” instead of shoplifting, which didn’t sound at all menacing?  Perhaps it was because their initial failure to play the taint card left the Ferguson PD no explanation for why they were pulling it out so late, well after it made any sense to go for the smear, and they couldn’t come up with a story that passed the laugh test?  Maybe they weren’t that shameless?  Nah.

The story is that before Michael Brown was gunned down in the street by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, he and Dorian Johnson shoplifted a box of baby cigars, Swisher Sweets, from a convenience store.  Based on the store’s video, Brown used his size when doing so, giving rise to the “strong arm” language as a show of force.  The kids shoplifted. Bad kids.

But here’s where we need to put this logical and legal trash to the curb.  The taint tactic must die.

The typical post hoc smear is the police statement that individual has “priors,” whether that be prior arrests or convictions. The message is that he’s criminal, and that alone is enough to make idiots leap to assumptions.  First, they assume that arrests means he’s guilty, because stupid people know that the police never arrest anyone who isn’t guilty.

Second, idiots assume that if someone was a criminal before, they’re a criminal then, that they have a propensity to commit crimes and acted in conformity with their criminal ways.  Third, it taints the individual’s character. It eliminates the halo and makes them less deserving of life, or to be more blunt, undeserving of concern.  A good person wasn’t lost to society, just another bad guy.  We could do without him anyway.  No loss.

But this line of thinking is illogical. It panders to stupidity, to the fool’s assumptions.  The police play this card because it works. It works because too many people lack the capacity to grasp why this tactic has no relevance to the conduct under scrutiny.  Stupid people, and those who pander to the ignorant, empower police to engage in this foolishness. They ought to be offended for being played like fools. Instead, they nod their head, say, “yerp” to themselves, and go back to watching Duck Dynasty.

Michael Brown had no priors.  Darren Wilson did not stop Michael Brown because of the shoplifting at the convenience store, as Chief Jackson was constrained to admit.  That it happened, as Dorian Johnson has conceded, that he and Brown shoplifted the Swisher Sweets, is utterly, completely irrelevant to Darren Wilson’s killing Michael Brown is the end of any justification for mentioning the shoplifting at all.

Police Chief Jackson brought it up was to see just how many people in America were too stupid to realize it was garbage.  He tainted Michael Brown’s memory, but did nothing to justify his killing.

That this tactic, the taint card, continues to be played by police for the sole reason of diminishing a human being whose life was snuffed out by a police officer without justification must come to an end.  Sure, most people fly by their emotional reactions, lacking the interest to piece together the illogic of their knee-jerk thoughts. Thinking is hard. It makes their head hurt. When they try, they could hurt themselves, sprain something. Nobody wants to sprain something.

So rather than expect people to hear utter nonsense and discern, through the hard effort of thinking, meaningful and relevant information from crap whose only purpose is to taint a human being for irrelevancies, it’s time to make it a truism so that no poor brain will ever risk spasm again:  Whenever the police play the taint card, it has no logical relevance and is offered because they think you’re stupid.  Don’t get angry with the person they killed. Get angry with them for treating you like a moron who would believe that their smear mattered.

Who knows what other things could be unearthed about an 18-year-old?  He drove faster than the speed limit?  He watched porn on the internet?  He lied to his mother about where he was going?  The list is endless. People do things they aren’t proud of all the time. Hardly things that suggest that they are awful people, but not the sort of stuff you want your parents to know.  Big deal.  We all have, and so will our children, no matter how angelic we are certain they are.

These things they do, the good and the bad, the nice and not so nice, do not detract from their being human beings worthy of living.  They do not give any justification to the taking of a life. They do not diminish the worthiness of their life.  They do not reduce their murder to inconsequence.  Stop being influenced by such crap. Be smarter. Be wiser. Be aware when you are being played for a fool.

Chief Jackson claimed that the reason he had to release the shoplifting report was that so many media outlets demanded it.  The reporters turned to each other as that was said in a group shrug. Nobody had a clue what he was talking about. Nobody asked for something that nobody knew existed. Nobody. It was a lie.

But Chief Jackson, having made the belated choice to play the taint game, should have considered that cops in glass police stations shouldn’t throw stones. When the best they could come up with to hold 52-year-old, mistakenly seized welder, Henry Davis, in custody after a beating was “transferred blood to my uniform,” the Ferguson Police had the losing hand.

That Jackson took the media to pointlessly, irrationally, besmirch Michael Brown’s worthiness to live is an outrage atop an outrage.  Be aware of it. Reject it. Refuse to accept it in the future. It’s not a reflection of the character of the guy they killed, but a reflection of their malice and belief in your ignorance. It’s time to end the smearing of the dead.

Update:  Judge Richard Kopf at Hercules and the Umpire disagrees with me that what might have motivated Michael Brown’s conduct, without regard to the fact that Wilson was unaware of the shoplifting, is relevant.

As I wrote in a comment to the Judge’s post, the facts do not support this assumption. Under different facts, that might be so. But not here. This is pure smear.

Update 2:  At Patterico’s Pontification, issue is taken with Ken White’s effort to discuss the relevance of the Brown smear.  Patterico, a prosecutor by trade, writes:

Brown is alleged by the cop (as I understand it) to have wildly overreacted when contacted for jaywalking by a police officer. The witnesses against the cop portray Brown as not wildly overreacting, but rather being shot by an out-of-control cop. Clearly, a critical issue in any trial would be whether Brown behaved like a perfect gentleman or — well, like a potential robbery suspect with a reason to resist. In what world does evidence of a robbery that happened that day get excluded?? And if it were excluded, wouldn’t every fair-minded person be screaming from the rooftops about the injustice of it?

This would be a fair argument if it was accurate.  Brown was never “alleged by the cop” to have done anything. The cop, Darren Wilson, has never come forward to allege what happened.  It must be great to be a cop, have other people fabricate allegations on your behalf, then spread ’em around as if they actually happened instead of being a facile figment of someone’s imagination.

Except it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for Judge Kopf. It didn’t happen for Patterico. Darren Wilson has never uttered a public allegation about anything.

47 thoughts on “The Smearing of Michael Brown (Update x2)

  1. Max Mustermann

    “That it happened, as Dorian Johnson has conceded, that he and Brown shoplifted the Swisher Sweets, is utterly, completely irrelevant to Darren Wilson’s killing Michael Brown is the end of any justification for mentioning the shoplifting at all.”

    You are wrong. Even if Wilson didn’t know Michael couldn’t know Wilson didn’t know. Am I missing something? (Note I didn’t follow the news..)

    1. SHG Post author

      You are apparently missing a great many things. First, if you’re going to assert that I’m wrong, you can’t then rely on ignorance (“I didn’t follow the news..”) to exculpate yourself from it. If you have no clue what you’re talking about, then don’t talk about it.

      More to your point, we have Dorian Johnson and two independent witnesses who have provided consistent stories about what happened, providing no justification for Wilson to shoot Brown at all, no less to gun him down 20 feet away, with hands raised. What Michael Brown knew about Wilson’s scope of knowledge had no bearing whatsoever on Wilson’s killing. To suggest otherwise is factually baseless and more than a bit ironic given that this is a post about how ignorant people latch onto irrelevancies. And, boom, here you are.

  2. Bob Mc

    I watched the video and all I saw was a guy trying to walk out a door when another guy tried to block the door so the first guy pushed him aside.

    “Strong arm robbery” certainly sounds worse than unarmed robbery

    Does this mean police didn’t shoot an unarmed man, but shot a “strong-armed” man? There’s a difference?

    1. SHG Post author

      I was taken aback by the phrase “strong arm robbery,” as a robbery is theft by force. Apparently, this phrase is more common in the Midwest, referring to a show of force by mere presence, a big guy versus a small guy, so that the small guy is intimidated by the big guy. I don’t accept the premise that this is a robbery at all, but doctrinal definition, but then, I’m from the right coast, so what do I know?

      1. bmaz

        Welp, that is how a guy on the left side of the country (even if not quite on the coast) sees it too. It is either simple shoplifting and/or misdemeanor theft.

        I will say this though, I think it is possible that a FOIA was made by some news organization. There were apparently rumors in Brown’s neighborhood that there was an incident at the store. Either Ryan Reilly or Lowery acknowledged they had heard such whispers but had not followed up on it. Its possible one of the more local news outfits did. Not saying it DID happen, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that turned out to be the case. The thing is though, the videotape would STILL be “part of an ongoing investigation” which is the basis the Ferguson PD is using to withhold all the other material people like you and I know is available and being withheld. That is a timeless tactic for cop shops and governments to employ. Here, the video was released hypocritically and cravenly solely for the furtherance of the taint effort. And it reeks.

        1. SHG Post author

          Chief Jackson explained it as overwhelming interest. Even if (and it remains an “if”) there was some interest, overwhelming is more than a bit hyperbolic.

          1. bmaz

            Yep. The point is, even if there was a FOIA out there fishing around, it could easily have been held back just like, for instance, all the other material being held back. The selective release Friday was pure BS.

            1. SHG Post author

              The selective release Friday was strategic. Poorly executed strategy, but nonetheless strategic, which is what makes it so flagrantly offensive.

      2. Jim Majkowski

        It seems the common law notion of robbery didn’t provide law enforcement with enough tools, so some of the legislatures have corrected the situation.

        From the Missouri statutes:

        569.010. As used in this chapter the following terms mean:

        (1) “Forcibly steals”, a person “forcibly steals”, and thereby commits robbery, when, in the course of stealing, as defined in section 570.030, he uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force upon another person for the purpose of:

        (a) Preventing or overcoming resistance to the taking of the property or to the retention thereof immediately after the taking ; (my emphasis) or

        (b) Compelling the owner of such property or another person to deliver up the property or to engage in other conduct which aids in the commission of the theft;

        Michigan uses similar definitions of “robbery.”

      3. JAL

        The phrase, “Strong-arm robbery” is in use in the South as well. In my state (not Missouri), the crime of robbery is defined as “an offense if, in the course of committing theft…and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he: (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.”

        A simple punch or slap that “causes pain” counts as bodily injury. A more serious injury, such as a broken bone, or use of a weapon elevates this to “aggravated robbery”. Police in my area commonly refer to the first type, “simple” robbery as a “strong-arm robbery”. Presumably, the perpetrator “strong arms” the victim instead of using a weapon of some sort. The punishment for “simple” or “strong arm” robbery is up to 20 years in prison, the punishment for “aggravated robbery”, where serious injury occurs or a weapon is used, can be up to life in prison.

        As you can see from Jim Majkowski’s post, Missouri has even more stringent standards for what constitutes a “strong arm” robbery. In my state, you have to cause someone pain, even if it is just a hard slap to the chest, to elevate theft to robbery. If I read the Missouri law correctly, merely pushing someone who blocks your path to the door out of the way can elevate a simple theft to “strong arm” robbery. In Missouri, that’s up to 15 years in prison. Using a weapon or causing serious injury in Missouri elevates the crime to “robbery in the first degree”, punishable in Missouri by up to life in prison.

        1. Jim Majkowski

          I would read the Missouri law to hold that using force even to escape apprehension, i.e., pulling away from store personnel’s efforts to apprehend, are sufficient to elevate shoplifting to robbery. That is Michigan law as well.

    2. John Barleycorn

      Really Bob Mc? Have another look.

      I especially enjoyed the full about-face and steps towards the clerk to wish him a pleasant afternoon after the clerk is armed aside by a youthfully strong arm out of the path of the doorway and retreating.

      Who knows the not from the continent of Africa brown skinned clerk might have called Mr. Brown a thieving no good fellow after the two couldn’t come to agreement on the price of swisher sweets at the counter and threatened to call Brown’s mother so Mr. Brown panicked? Or perhaps the clerk owed Mr. Brown a hundred bucks for last weeks dice game out back and he rushed to the door to plead with Mr. Brown that he could come back after the lunch rush to collect?

      What fucking difference does it make!

      Anyway, I must admit that I am a bit disappointed that our esteemed one did not give the powers that be their due for trump card patience or even some professional admiration (like he did for PBA out of NYC as they went about their smear campaign over the choke hold killing) for the PR milk and cookies delivered by the “bad cop” yesterday as this purposeful asymmetrical division and delegation of power, press releases, and photo-ops is doled out to accomplish a strategic venting of protest anger while simultaneously delivering a spoon full of justification sugar to make the killing go down a little easier.

      Keep in mind Mr. Brown has not even been buried yet and the man who killed Mr. Brown who happens to wear a peace officers badge is on paid hiatus talking to some very capable union reps and their equally capable retained CDL’s in-between having coffee with the FBI. These unfounded suggestions are addictive.

      But Mr. Brown will be in the ground soon enough. Then the gloves can come off and the smear and inverse sympathy shenanigans can be set free via the photos of the bandages on the officers face, the toxicology and coroner’s report, the police academy graduation pictures of the officer and his smiling wife. etc..etc…let alone any unknown trump cards like grade school crayon drawings of devils or nude pictures of seventeen year old girls on Mr. Browns phone.

      Brown certainly made it easy, too easy but he was on his way to college so my guess is, even despite our esteemed ones pleas, that we-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet before the smear dust settles out.

      Reflecting on unfounded suggestions, I am thinking even the esteemed one would have come with a bit more than “It’s time to end the smearing of the dead.” if the irrelevant footage hadn’t come out. But hey, well take it. He ain’t a federal judge or even retired yet after all.

      And truth be told ending the “taint card tactic” would be an excellent addition to the Missouri or any other states Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission and it takes calm lawyers to word them letters that need to be written.

      But lets face it pushing a grocer clerk around for smokes regardless of the reason or lack off reason is not going to get Mr. Brown any bonus points or empathy from the majority of the population and this show ain’t going to get off the ground.

      Question is, and it remains, when will the needless killing stop?

      I wonder what would have happened if the good neighbor who brought the Amish girls home after their recent kidnapping had passed a trooper on the way and been gunned down as he stepped out of his car to explain to the trooper what was up? Do you think the cops would be saying he should have known better and called the police instead of driving the girls home and who in their right mind doesn’t keep their hands on the wheel after being stopped until directed to do otherwise these days?

      I will make a bold prediction and say the stars are not aligned just yet unless the bodies in the street meet exponential in the next few weeks.

      But what if footage comes out of Mr. Brown punching the killer in the face before he killed you might ask? To which I might reply, “fists” make for much better imagery than raised hands and will be more resonate with the under thirty demographic that can’t pay their auto insurance premiums.

      However this is still America so, if any SJ back page readers are done calling cops, cops except for the good cops or whatever….and are interested in participating and dawning and dusting off their Peaceful Quaker Anarchist capes I was thinking meeting the ongoing surreal of the killing and taint tactic by joining the domestic diplomatic state department core to pull some night shifts after most of the old fucks like myself have retreated back home for supper to watch the six o’clock news after the afternoon march and prayer vigils with one more body on the street.

      And just for the entertainment and children of the social media generation notching the surreal up a bit to dull down the rage.

      Perhaps, after the funeral why not head on over to the hamlet of Ferguson on the banks of the mighty Mississippi on a raft in an astronaut suit with some spit balls and straws stashed in the pockets for self defense weaponry and a back pack full of swisher sweets. Then head out to the front lines to stuff swisher sweets down the muzzles of fully automatic weapons in-between cruising up and down the line on a big wheel with a huge American Flag flying off the back that has a photo of Lucy putting some bullets into Charlie Brown on the ground after she pulls the football away stenciled over the top of it.

      Sounds about right to me, but I don’t know if even the comic con crowd will pick up on the symbolism even if I launch spit balls with my last breath through straws at armored personal carriers.

      However, I am thinking an astronaut suit getting blasted with bean bag rounds at close range while teargas canisters and rubber bullets accidentally bounce off the helmet should hold up for three or four minutes don’t you think? The only real risk might come when the Tazers fail to adequately pierce the skin atop my broken ribs and my astronaut suit resting arrest.

      RIP. Mr. Michael Brown may your senseless death not be in vein you stupid little kid. Go back to bed America you can twit on twitter about it in the morning after seeing the talking heads tweet their hearts out on the TeeVee.

      P.S. It’s a shame Bob Marley never filtered into the consciousness of Gangster Rap or Hip Hop culture through all that milk and honey. Who knows now might be the time? For if their are ghosts, Ferguson’s Mr. Brown surely is one today.

  3. Jorge

    If you were defending the cop in a criminal case, wouldn’t you bring up Kopf’s theory that the victim knew he’d committed a robbery and therefore had a motive to struggle with the cop, so as to get away without being found out? To deny the potential relevance of this fact seems antithetical to the skepticism defense attorneys have to have.

    1. SHG Post author

      The duties of a defense lawyers to use whatever lawful means is available to defend his client has no bearing whatsoever on the responsibility of a police chief to the public. It’s no more relevant in my hands than his, but I have no responsibility to not pander to prejudice and stupidity. Indeed, if it serves my client’s interest, I have a duty to do so.

      A public servant, a police chief, on the other hand, owes his fealty to the public, not the killer.

      1. Julie near Chicago

        Um. In fact the attorney for the defense, as much as any other attorney, is an officer of the court. His job is not to “do whatever it takes,” including pandering to prejudice and stupidity*, to get his client off; rather it is to see that his client gets a fair trial. A fair trial is one in which the Prosecution tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, while the defendant’s side tells and insinuates no mistruths; and in which the law is applied impartially throughout the legal process, hearings, depositions, discovery, etc., and of course during the trial and sentencing itself. In this regard it’s the defense attorney’s job to pay special attention to seeing that his client gets the legal rights and remedies due him, and that the other side and the Court itself don’t fail to observe these.

        His job is, among other things, to see that the presumption of his client’s innocence is upheld, so that his client isn’t unjustly convicted: “unjustly,” by all the criteria of both honesty — fealty to the truth, that is the actual facts of events and also the existing context — and legal rights and responsibilities.

        “Whatever works” and “anything goes” doesn’t apply to the defense anymore than it does to the prosecution. And, of course, vice-versa. The prosecuting attorney is equally an officer of the court, and his job is only to see that honestly evidence against the defendant is honestly brought, and that the law is argued justly in his arguments in favor of conviction without disregarding its rules and presumptions that aim to see that persons are not convicted unjustly.

        1. SHG Post author

          Whenever anybody writes nonsense like this, a puppy dies. Are you proud of yourself for killing a puppy?

          1. Julie near Chicago

            Well, like it or not, that is the ethics that is supposed to underlie our judicial system. The fact that it’s in honored more in the breach than in the observance doesn’t change anything.

            It’s unfortunate that pandering to people’s worst traits has become so much the norm that attorneys and their lay followers find mention of the fact so worthy of scorn.

            The fact is that the “anything goes as long as it works” attitude poisons the entire system, with the end result being that no one trusts the honesty and good faith of anybody in the judicial system. The upshot of that is that the innocent are convicted just as often as the guilty go free, and maybe even more so.

            And just in case anybody cares, it really is far better that a hundred guilty men go free than that one innocent man be convicted.

            And given the depths of dysfunction in the system as it is today, I can understand how galling it is when an attorney actually believes that his client’s innocent, but knows he’s not going to be able to persuade the judge, or the jury, or the bureaucrat-in-chief, unless he “panders.”

            No, I don’t believe in unicorns and moonbeams. But if we allow the corrupt of the earth to get away with making up the rules by which we all must live … we have no cause to complain when we ourselves are the victims of corruption.

            1. SHG Post author

              Well, like it or not, that is the ethics…

              Had you argued that this is what Julie from Chicago thinks legal ethics should be, perhaps it would be worthwhile to explain to you why you are so horribly wrong. Instead, you insist that your grossly mistaken fantasy is “fact,” reducing you to another clueless flaming nutjob. While you may be entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts. Nor are you entitled to claim your fantasy to be reality, no matter how tight your tin foil hat may be.

              One of the rules here is that no one is allowed to make people stupider. You do. Sorry.

            2. Andrew


              You keep misstating what was written. No one has said “anything goes,” but “whatever lawful means is available.” Lawful means. Within the bounds of the law. You keep ignoring this.

              You also appear to argue that ethics require a defense lawyer to make sure that guilty defendants get convicted, because of “truth.” That’s totally nuts. This isn’t “fact” or “like it or not,” but insanity. It’s not just that you’re living in a fantasy, but that your fantasy would be a nightmare.

              Let it go. You’re wrong. Completely wrong.

        2. Sgt. Schultz

          His job is, among other things, to see that the presumption of his client’s innocence is upheld, so that his client isn’t unjustly convicted: “unjustly,” by all the criteria of both honesty — fealty to the truth, that is the actual facts of events and also the existing context — and legal rights and responsibilities.

          You win the Fluttershy Friendship is Magic Award. Yea for you!!!

    2. AP

      Judge Knopf presumes that Michael Brown had a guilty mind as a result of the convenience store incident. There’s no evidence brought to the public’s attention that Brown was even remotely acting like somebody who had just fled a robbery or any other crime for that matter.

      1. SHG Post author

        I don’t think the judge sees how quickly and easily he made the inferential leaps to assume the worst about Brown, or conversely how quickly he embraced the assumption that offered some justification to Wilson’s actions. But then, a lot of people are doing that today. These comments reflect it, and the commenters can’t see the ease with which they embrace the taint of the “bad guy,” despite every known fact militating against it.

  4. TSU

    Based upon Wapo’s sequence of events as reported by police. As far as I know that sequence isn’t contested, although the details of the altercations are:
    [Ed. Note: link deleted per rules.]

    The theft and altercation with the cashier occurs around 11:53am. Eight minutes later, at 12:01the police, unaware of the theft and altercation, ask Brown to walk on the sidewalk not in the road; at which point the presently deceased grabs for the officer’s gun, with fatal result. Or the cop goes psycho and shoots Brown without reason per third party witness accounts.

    The initial police story was lacking any explanatory reason for the purported lunge for the gun; this isn’t normal behavior, especially in response to a request to move to the sidewalk. Neither, for that matter, did the third party witness accounts contain any explanatory motive for the purportedly unprovoked shooting. Shooting someone for not moving to the sidewalk is not normal behavior, even for bad cops.

    Under those two competing narratives, we have dueling psychos; either a psycho cop or a psycho Brown, neither acting with any motivation. There was nothing in Brown’s background to suggest psychoness nor in that of the officer, although the record is far from complete about either gentleman. Either a psycho grabs for a gun after being ordered/asked to move to the sidewalk, or a psycho shoots someone for not moving to the sidewalk. Something is missing.

    The theft and altercation with the cashier adds context,. The timing is important. The incident with the officer occurred less than ten minutes after the robbery. So, Brown thinks that he is about to be arrested for robbery–a natural assumption under the circumstances–and does something dumb, grabs for the gun. The officer is unaware of the robbery, which is what the media is harping upon, but Brown is aware of the robbery, is fresh from the robbery, and is still pumped from the altercation with the clerk. Brown may be dumb for grabbing for the gun eight minutes after the robbery, but he isn’t a psycho acting without motive or reason.

    That’s the link, the eight minutes between the robbery and the police encounter.

    The police chief didn’t discuss that (or it was not discussed in the news). At any rate, it does flesh out the situation, due to the close time connection. If it occurred three weeks prior, it would be character assassination, unduly prejudicial, etc. If it had occurred three hours earlier, it would not be of as much value. Coming only eight minutes after Brown left the store, it is still part of the same chain of events. He was still in the vicinity, the police would still be responding to a 911 call, and the police would still be looking for him, when they did encounter him. Brown knew that, even if the police didn’t know about the incident at the store.

    That leaves, of course, the accounts of the witnesses conflicting with that of the police and does nothing to excuse the FPD’s incompetent handling of the case, lack of communication, police dressed like ninja turtles, etc.

    1. SHG Post author

      Your narrative at the critical juncture of the initial confrontation is woefully deficient, making your “psycho cop or psycho Brown” analysis nonsensical and worthless.

      Dorian Johnson’s account, confirmed by two independent witnesses, provides a more than adequate basis for Wilson’s anger at Brown’s noncompliance with his demand and effort break free of his grasp. Next time, try learning more than just WaPo’s timeline if you wish to know enough to merit an opinion.

      1. JAL

        After reading the link and thinking about it a bit, no. Let’s assume the worst of the cop:

        That he curses at the two young men for walking on the sidewalk.
        That he carelessly runs his car near them when they dare to suggest an alternate course of action rather than immediately complying with their demand.

        Assume the worst about his attitude and his disrespect to the people of the community he allegedly serves. How do you get from that to trying to grab someone by the neck through the window, shooting them when they pull away, and then shooting several more rounds into them when they stop and put their hands up?

        Sorry, that requires a “psycho cop”, just as much as any other version of the incident.

        1. SHG Post author

          You haven’t spent enough time with contempt of cop, anger, impulse and adrenalin. While this case has gone viral, this sadly is no surprise.

          Yes, the cop was psycho. Others are as well. This is hardly the first story of this sort, and if you had been aware of the other similar instances like this, you wouldn’t have had to stretch to “psycho cop.” It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens far more often than many realize.

          1. JAL

            Aside from a handful of unpleasant firsthand experiences, I’ve spent dozens of hours of watching videos of cops behaving badly. I’m quite familiar with “contempt of cop”. The eyewitness description of the guy’s behavior is a textbook example.

            Thing is, that alone hardly ever leads to a shooting. Beatings, yes, trumped up charges, yes, shootings, not so much. That usually takes an added element of cowardice…seeing a .38 where there was only a cell phone, that sort of thing.

            You’ve said in as many words that you thought the cop was psycho. I would say that is totally counter to his record as a cop, save that we know that the Ferguson PD was terrible at documenting and assessing complaints of misbehavior. So, I think we’re back to…we just don’t know, we’re making assumptions, and perhaps we’ll know more as more evidence is uncovered.

            1. SHG Post author

              You were doing so well, and then you went haywire:

              I would say that is totally counter to his record as a cop, save that we know that the Ferguson PD was terrible at documenting and assessing complaints of misbehavior. So, I think we’re back to…we just don’t know, we’re making assumptions, and perhaps we’ll know more as more evidence is uncovered.

              So you have clear, credible first-hand information, with multiple witnesses confirming it, on the one hand. You have no first hand account, a PR claim that defies reality, a void of disciplinary information because of Ferguson PDs failure to maintain records, on the other hand, and in your mind, that adds up to “we just don’t know”? One side has overwhelming evidence while the other has nothing, and you call it even?

              Interesting math you have there.

            2. JAL

              No. We don’t have “clear, credible first-hand information”. Eyewitness statements, from either side, are the last thing any investigator should trust if he really wants to get at the truth of something.

              It’s very clear to me that you’re taking Dorian Johnson at face value, with no filtering whatsoever. Your bias in favor of Johnson’s version of events is showing. And my experience tells me that even if this was a bad shooting, that the cop was 100% in the wrong, Dorian Johnson’s version of events is almost certainly wrong.

              Boldly speaking, practically all eyewitnesses on either side of any event like this are unreliable, and should be used only when there are gaps in the story that are not provided by more reliable sources (such gaps almost always exist).

            3. SHG Post author

              You’ve got this all muddled now. First, eyewitness identifications are unreliable, not eyewitness accounts. They’re entirely different things. Eyewitness accounts are far from perfect, but they don’t have the same failings as identifications.

              Second, Dorian Johnson’s account was inherently credible (it made internal sense), had the hallmarks credibility (he didn’t try to sanitize conduct) and was corroborated by two independent witnesses (plus a third who claims to have observed Brown getting shot as he fled). It’s not a matter of favoring the account; it’s the only account there is. The police account was a press release, with the only eyewitness being Darren Wilson, who has not offered his account directly. There are no “equivalent” accounts to pick from. There is, at this time, only one account. A press release is not the equivalent.

              Regardless of whether eyewitness accounts are reliable, the alternative to the Johnson account is a unsourced partial story (the press release) and rampant speculation. You are suggesting speculation trumps an eyewitness account, or at least is its equivalent. Your assessment of witness accounts is grossly mistaken, but your preference for blind speculation over witness accounts is inexplicable. Sorry, but until Darren Wilson comes forward with his account, there is only one fact-based account to chose from.

              If and when Wilson comes forward, we can then consider which is more credible, but until then, there is no choice. What I am “choosing” is to stick to known facts rather than speculation and groundless allegations. If you prefer baseless speculation to eyewitness accounts, that’s your choice.

            4. JAL

              My experience as an investigator of incidents outside the legal realm is that eyewitnesses don’t get anything right…not identification, not details of events, not anything. Dorian Johnson’s account is a data point, and a useful one. But it is only a data point, not the whole story. It may be later confirmed by evidence, or shown by evidence to be wildly inaccurate (I’ve seen many such “credible, consistent” accounts completely invalidated by evidence).

              The problem is not that there are no “equivalent” accounts to pick from. Even if Wilson comes forward with a full account from his perspective, we will be left with competing eyewitness accounts that are both most likely wrong. What we have is incomplete data, and all we can do as time goes on is accumulate more and more data until some sort of narrative that even the skeptics find acceptable emerges.

            5. SHG Post author

              First, anon commenters don’t get to use their life experiences as an argument. Second (and I don’t mean this to be offensive), but who cares what your experience is? It’s your experience. That doesn’t make it universal, conclusive or even meaningful to anyone else.

              Third, witness accounts are kinda foundational evidence in law. People get executed based on them. To discount them as inherently “wildly inaccurate” may be fair, but they’re all we’ve got. They are evidence. In the absence of any countervailing evidence, they cannot be simply discounted on your say-so.

            6. JAL

              I used to investigate incidents for NASA. Worked on the Columbia disaster, among other things. My experience is only my experience, but what I’ve found personally has been born out by many studies.

              IMO, the legal system would function more accurately if it placed less emphasis on eyewitness testimony. Yes, I’m well aware of literally hundreds of years of precedent for this, and how our legal system came about. That doesn’t mean that it functions as well as it could.

            7. SHG Post author

              I don’t disagree with you, though eyewitness accounts of what transpired (not identifications, which are an entirely different matter) aren’t as “wildy inaccurate” in my experience as you contend, but witness accounts are usually all we have.

              As Badass Physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said, if law was left to scientists, there would be no eyewitness identifications allowed. I’m familiar with the research and the problems. The flip side is that this is law, not science, and we use evidence that falls short of proof. It may suck, but it’s what law does.

              Once again: On one side, we have eyewitness accounts. On the other side, we do not. That does not mean “we don’t know, so we have to wait and see.” That means we have evidence. Your disdain for eyewitness accounts doesn’t change the facts. Only facts change the facts, whether they meet with your approval or not. What amazes me is that you credit a complete evidentiary void over eyewitness accounts. You seem like a pretty smart person, yet you’ve taken an utterly absurd position. In any event, this has gone around enough. We’re done.

  5. James

    Regardless of the police chief’s words, experience has given us insight into the most likely outcome. It would be plead down to shoplifting, probation and possibly a fine, as Mr. Brown was a first time offender. Might have even started off at shoplifting and ended up in some diversionary program… or a stay of charges leading to their eventual withdrawal provided he did well in college.

    It’s sad watching people twist themselves with hysteria and hyperbole in an attempt to label Mr. Brown ‘a thug’ or ‘an animal’ when those they employ to seek justice (hah!) just would not give a single fuck. Pardon my language.

    1. Bob Mc

      IMHO, based on my experiences with my local PD, it probably wouldn’t even have started off as a shoplifting case. This is the kind of crap cops blow off all the time. I doubt the beat cop that showed to take the complaint from the store clerk would even have filled out any paperwork, never mind called in a detective, had one of their own not killed some kid.
      The “investigation” that did occur was not about who stole $2 worth of smokes, it was about covering for their colleague.

  6. traderprofit

    Yerp, now I’m going back to a full day of DVR’d Duck Dynasty episodes. Then, I’ll be cleaning off my , er….taint.
    Your stereotyping is really weak.

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  11. Mike

    Feel stupid now that Dorian Johnson has flipped his story and admitted Michael Brown attacked the officer and reached for his gun?

    1. SHG Post author

      At the moment, this claim exists on a few outlier websites. It hasn’t come from his mouth or been reported from a credible source. But if it turns out to be the case, then the evidence is different and the facts stem from the evidence. So no, I would neither feel stupid nor be stupid. If it turns out that there is different evidence, then it will change the equation. That’s how thoughtful people deal with the world.

      Do you feel stupid for believing in something for which no evidence existed because you were so blindly biased that you didn’t care about evidence or facts? Even if it should subsequently turn out to be the case, it would still be stupid to have believed so in the absence of any evidence. That’s how stupid people deal with the world.

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