by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 24 August
"In valor there is hope." Tacitus
Friday morning rolling along I-10 East I happened upon the Rush Limbaugh radio program. Not a regular listener but the program caught my attention because Rush said it was open line Friday for callers. Public opinion is always interesting.
A 32-year veteran of law enforcement (police officer), now retired, called to comment on the Michael Brown shooting (by police officer Darren Wilson) in Ferguson, Missouri.
He started by saying that during his time in uniform eight (of his) fellow officers had been killed in the line of duty - by unarmed assailants. He stressed unarmed. Eight police officer murders.
He did not detail the particulars of each death but he did expound on one. During a struggle the police officer was struck (by a fist), momentarily stunned, and had his firearm taken from him. His efforts to evade and hide from the now armed assailant failed. He was killed, by his firearm in the assailant's hand, at point-blank range.
His point was that that Michael Brown was unarmed, as some sort of defense for him being a victim, is nonsense. He went on to say that even the best trained police officer can have his hands full in a physical engagement and end up on the bad end of a lucky blow. Thus, in a blink of an eye, an unarmed subject can be armed.
And while this police officer was speaking and Rush occasionally commenting the confrontation between Mr. Brown and Officer Wilson came to mind.
Mr. Brown stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed nearly 300 pounds - an imposing mountain of a man. At eighteen years old he was probably strong, too. Imagine the striking power of a punch thrown by an angry young man of this size.
I've not seen a full figure photograph of Officer Wilson but reports are he is not nearly the physical equal of Mr. Brown. Few men are.
Toxicology reports indicated THC in Mr. Brown's system - that is, he'd been smoking marijuana. Soon we'll know if there was anything else altering his mood and cerebral functions.
Reports also indicate Mr. Brown struck, with his fist, Officer Wilson in the face (e.g. that lucky blow mentioned by the police officer on the Limbaugh program) - the extent of damage reported ranging from swelling to an orbital blowout. And there may be more to his injuries (and impact on thinking) still. Injuries were severe enough to require transport to the hospital.
And it has been reported Mr. Brown went for Officer Wilson's firearm - maybe a fingerprint will so prove. Had he succeeded, that would have changed Mr. Brown's status from unarmed to armed. Apparently, Officer Wilson was not going to let that happen. And didn't.
Minutes before the initial encounter between Mr. Brown and Officer Wilson, Mr. Brown robbed a convenience store. He assaulted (shoved) the brave, much smaller, clerk who attempted to stop him. In fact, surveillance video shows the departing Mr. Brown stop and turn around making a step or so forward to again threaten the protesting clerk. Mr. Brown then departed with his loot (a box of cigars). Note that shoving and turning, to reengage the clerk, is an important bit of Mr. Brown's behavior.
Supposedly, after the initial struggle between Mr. Brown and Officer Wilson, Mr. Brown was walking away but turned (from whatever distance) and started moving towards Officer Wilson (attempting to stop if not arrest him).
To safeguard himself, Officer Wilson fired six bullets into the front (noted during autopsy) of Mr. Brown - and dropped him, killed him.
But did Officer Wilson fire more than six rounds? His magazine-fed pistol held more than six. In an injured, dazed state did he fire more but miss? Were there rounds in the magazine after Mr. Brown fell?
Perhaps Officer Wilson missed as many times as he hit Mr. Brown. And what conclusions might be drawn from the amount of spent ammunition?
After thinking about what that police officer who called Rush said about an unarmed hostile subject becoming an armed one in an instant, there's not much of an argument for the defense of Mr. Brown (as to being less dangerous because he was "unarmed.")
A Mr. Brown who, again, was under the influence of marijuana; committed a strong-arm robbery; assaulted a clerk; was walking down the middle of the street impeding traffic; and who thought it a good idea to assault and batter a police officer whom he dwarfed.
Not one to jump to conclusions, I, like everyone else, await the facts and truth. They will come out. For right or wrong, there are too many eyes on this case for science or legal shenanigans to prevail. That's what ethics is all about. That said, though there's not much (good) to be said about ethics in government these days - and particularly when the top levels of the federal government are involved (as in this case) and in which there's little public faith in truth.
The known facts are that Mr. Brown did not set himself up for success on the day he died - he broke multiple laws (robbery; assault; smoking dope; obstructing traffic) and not only failed to heed a police officer but aggressively confronted that officer. Evidently a recalcitrant attitude (drug induced moot) topped off Mr. Brown's sour persona that day. And that police officer, a six-year veteran, did not have any public complaints against him. Those facts alone indicate Mr. Brown, through poor decision-making and bad behavior, had a significant hand in determining his fate.
So, moving the shooting story forward by returning to the beginning, is not the more relevant and necessary conversation one of personal responsibility and accountability? For that the incident would not have happened.
But it did happen.
Every Marine I've discussed this case with has essentially offered the same perspective. In so many words, "Had I been Officer Wilson facing a hostile attacker the size of Mr. Brown, who'd already injured me, there would not have been any (unspent) rounds in the magazine. And, if physically able, I'd have reloaded and fired more if necessary." Me too.
From Mr. Brown's camp the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" is a clever but nonsensical victimization battle cry meant to rile emotions. The more fitting ditty should have come from the police while trying to maintain law and order in Ferguson after the shooting "Hands Up, Don't Loot & We Won't Shoot" might have minimized senseless collateral destruction.
Police officers serve and protect - dangerous work. Thank goodness there are men and women who volunteer to take on such important community service.
In the meantime, the country awaits blind justice in Ferguson.
We shall see.
Funny man Mr. Chris Rock offers sage advice, humorously flavored, that's applicable to everyone when interacting with police. Exactly!