Who Murdered Joshua Brown? (Update)

His testimony was given a mere ten days before his death on behalf of the state and against the defendant. The defendant was former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. It wasn’t critical testimony, but more color commentary, the sort of additional testimony that provides flavor and context to the crime and the victim. Some media are calling his testimony “key,” as he was an “ear witness” to the killing, but while his testimony was certainly helpful to the prosecution, it’s unlikely the conviction hinged on his testimony.

Yet, two days after the verdict, there he was. Dead.

Officers were called Friday night to the Atera apartments in the 4600 block of Cedar Springs Road, where witnesses reported hearing gunshots and seeing a silver four-door sedan speed out of the parking lot.

The victim was revealed to be Brown, though the Dallas police were typically less than forthcoming about the details. This left a gap filled by S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer retained by the family whose credibility falls only slightly below Al Sharpton’s as spokesman for Tawana Brawley.

“He had no known enemies,” Merritt tweeted Saturday. “He worked for a living. We need answers.”

In a post that was retweeted more than 68,000 times, Merritt said Saturday that Brown had been shot in the mouth and chest. He later pulled back from that statement, saying he would have to wait for an autopsy to be sure where Brown’s wounds were.

Merritt’s initial claim, that Brown was shot in the mouth, was a big deal: it’s the location of a shot when someone wants to send a message, like a mobster. Or a cop. If he wasn’t shot in the mouth, it both eliminates the message, if not the myth Merritt created that contributes a significant degree of taint to the story, and provides fodder to those who would question anything Merritt has to say. A lawyer like Merritt can’t afford any loss of credibility, as he started with so little.

Did he have “no known enemies”? So the family says, so Merritt says, and since this wasn’t some kid involved with problems, with gangs or crime, it may well be true. Or his family had no knowledge of enemies, no knowledge of what this young man was doing. This isn’t to say he was doing anything at all, but that it’s possible that the family, and Merritt, were sincere but mistaken.

But what of the timing?

Sgt. Mike Mata, the president of the Dallas Police Association, said he didn’t believe that the shooting was the result of someone targeting Mr. Brown for his role as a star witness in Ms. Guyger’s trial.

“Any conspiracy theorist that has ever watched a thriller — if you’re going to try to prevent somebody from testifying, it usually happens before, not after,” he said.

While it’s obvious that murdering a witness after giving testimony would be pointless if the purpose was to prevent his testifying, it’s similarly obvious that there are other reasons to do so, such as to send a message on the streets that if you snitch against a cop, you end up dead. It may be too late to save Guyger, but it’s hardly too late to send a message for the future.

Sergeant Mata said such theories minimize the crime problem in Dallas, adding that the city had seen more murders this year than in previous years, and violent crime was up.

And then there’s the possibility that Joshua Brown was just a random victim of murder. It’s not that Dallas is in the midst of a murder epidemic, but crime still happens. Even if this wasn’t some street payback or cop message, or some nutjob badgelicker’s revenge, or a long list of possible variations on these themes, sometimes people are murdered and the coincidence of timing offers nothing to answer who killed him.

But this killing smells bad.

The reactions have been curious. Some are certain that it couldn’t possibly be the cops. Others are equally certain that it had to be, for who else could it be? Neither of these reactions are meaningful, just the ordinary visceral responses of people with agendas arguing their beliefs as if they had a clue. They don’t. They’re just background noise, the constant din in the room making it harder to hear nuance.

It may turn out that we learn of Joshua Brown’s killer(s), as sometimes there’s a lucky break, someone with a big mouth saying the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong ears listening. But there is also a strong possibility that we will never know. Maybe the “silver four-door sedan” seen leaving the parking lot at a “high rate of speed” had nothing to do with the killing, and wanted to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible before the murder was pinned on the people inside. Sometimes, there are other cars in the vicinity that bear no connection to a killing, but end up being the car seen by witnesses.

Most people, however, found the coincidence in the killing of Joshua Brown disturbing, despite Merritt as the current primary source. What that shows is that they do not reject what would have been considered outlandish speculation at one time, that Dallas police officers might be the mobsters who murdered Joshua Brown.

It’s clearly speculative at this point, and there is no more evidence to suggest the killer was a cop than anyone else. And yet, it’s not considered beyond the realm of possibility.

Contrary to what many expect, there is no magic means by which crack investigators with CSI-type skills find the “real killer.” Most murders go unsolved, un-closed as cop lingo puts it, because it’s very hard without a witness or the fortune of some evidence stupidly left behind to find a killer.

And rarely do the cops put in the effort to seriously investigate such crimes, unless there’s a public outcry and order from the brass to make it happen. Then, there’s often a tendency to leap to conclusions and build a case against anyone they can in order to calm the public and create the appearance they’re not complete buffoons.

We may never know who killed Joshua Brown. And even if they pin it on someone, we may struggle to believe it, because the seeds of belief that it might be a cop have been planted, and there is sufficient doubt in the integrity of the police that this speculation can grow. It’s not a conspiracy argument that Brown was killed by a cop, but the fact that we would even consider such a possibility reflects a loss of faith in the police as the good guys. It doesn’t mean all cops are bad, but that all cops aren’t good. This is where we are today.

Update: It appears that Joshua Brown may have had enemies, having been shot outside a strip club in 2018.

9 thoughts on “Who Murdered Joshua Brown? (Update)

  1. DaveL

    If “an abundance of caution” is grounds for no-knock warrants with the SWAT team, or handcuffing grammar school children, you’d think perhaps Dallas PD could muster enough caution out of that abundance to call in an outside police agency to investigate a murder as suspicious as this one.

  2. B. McLeod

    Other press accounts have indicated he was constantly in fear of becoming a victim of gun violence, which would be odd for a guy with no enemies and no high-risk occupational activities.

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