Only the Facts, Ma’am

Bill Neinast

“Just the facts, Ma’am.”  That was the signature statement of Detective Joe Friday in “Dragnet,” the 1950’s TV series.

If that had been the mantra for the rabble rousers in Ferguson, Missouri, for the last several weeks, the city may not have been torn apart with riots.

According to Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, and others, black teenager Michael Brown was peacefully walking down the street when he was killed by a white policeman.  Some also say that Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was gunned down.  That is why the symbol for the protests has become marching with hands raised, as in surrender.

Photos of Brown appearing on various newscasts depict him as a small, cherubic teenager with an engaging smile wearing ear phones.  

This image and narrative underlie the protestors’ demands for “JUSTICE” that includes the firing and trying of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown.

Would knowledge and discussion of the facts had a different effect?  We will never know, but consider the indisputable facts that are currently public.

Brown may have been a cherubic teenager when the photo used to depict him was made.  The Brown who was shot, however, was a large 18 year old man.  A video that has been released shows him robbing a cigar store and shoving a much smaller man the afternoon he was killed.

Brown was not a young man walking down a sidewalk who was stopped and questioned by a policeman who profiled him as a troublemaker because he was black.  According to Dorian Johnson, 22, who was walking with Brown, they were walking in the middle of the street. Under those circumstances, regardless of race, they would have been questioned by any policeman who saw them.

Officer Wilson was hit in the face by someone or something.  He has a fractured orbital socket to prove the assault.

The autopsy results will establish whether Brown was surrendering when he was  shot.  If he was trying to surrender, the bullets will have entered the undersides of his arms--the parts that face out when arms are raised.

On popular cops and robbers TV shows, one pistol or rifle shot will drop the person in the crosshairs immediately.  That, however, is not real life.  Read a few citations for Medals of Honor.  Most of the heroes on those hallowed rolls were riddled with bullets or shrapnel but kept fighting off attackers or rescuing a fallen buddy.

So Brown being shot multiple times does not necessarily mean that Officer Wilson used excessive force.  Without question, adrenalin was running high in both Wilson and Brown.  Wilson had a millisecond to decide whether to shoot.  Once the first round was off, if Brown kept advancing, Wilson would have even shorter seconds to decide whether to keep shooting and how many times to pull or hold the trigger.

In situations like this, the policeman has neither the time nor the ability to calmly aim at the legs or other part of the body and accurately shoot a person advancing on him to make him or her fall.  He is going to point and shoot at the largest part of the target, i.e., the chest and stomach.

Another rallying cry for the protesters is that justice cannot and will not be done if the investigation against Officer Wilson is conducted by a white District Attorney and a mostly white grand jury.   Regardless of the facts, if the grand jury does not indict Wilson, the protesters will chant, “We told you so!”

There are facts, however, that challenge such an assertion.  

The best of those facts may be the case of Loyal Garner, a black man who was beaten to death in the jail of Jennings, Texas, by three white policemen.  In 1990, those policemen were convicted of murder and sentenced to years in confinement by an all white jury in Tyler in the heart of East Texas where racism prevailed. 

So here’s the perspective.

Michael Brown may have been murdered just because he was a black man stopped by a white policeman.  Or he may have been killed because he was an individual who charged a wounded policeman pointing a gun at him and ordering him to freeze.  Or the tragedy may fall somewhere in between.

Only the facts will tell.

Hopefully, the mantra for the grand jury investigation will be “Only the facts, Ma’am.”


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