Ferguson and American Racism After the Killer of Michael Brown Goes Free
This is a sad day.
The grand jury’s decision is yet another sign that all of America’s sons’ lives are not yet valued equally in the eyes of our courts. All of America’s fathers, mothers and children should stay outraged and in motion for progress until we are finally what we say we are: One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.
We must finally ensure police can be held accountable for killing unarmed civilians. We must win national standards for both the use of force and use of force training. We must require the use of body cameras on police officers. We must force the removal of any mayor or police chief who cannot ensure the minimum requirement of any public safety agenda: that the police uphold their oath and protect and respect the lives of all civilians. The time has long since come for the behavior of America’s police to reflect her people’s values by respecting the sanctity of each of our lives no matter our race, gender, or class.
The path to these goals is focused advocacy and, where necessary, non-violent direct action. Those are the strategies that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts 50 years ago and the outlawing of racial profiling in New York City just two years ago.
Today we are all Michael Brown. Tomorrow we must ensure each of our lives is valued equally in the eyes of our nation’s laws, law enforcement officers, and courts.
For 104 days, the police have lied and said Mike Brown was killed 35 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV. It was actually 148 feet.
This distance is essential to the defense and how Darren Wilson must demonstrate that he “reasonably feared for his safety.” At the point in which Mike Brown ran half a football field away, how reasonable is it for an armed officer to fear anyone?
On the afternoon of August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri. Below is the first video filmed from Canfield Drive, where the shooting occurred, showing the exact measurement between where Darren Wilson’s SUV was parked and Mike Brown died. After that, we methodically debunk the lie that Mike Brown was killed in close proximity to Darren Wilson’s SUV.
Our starting point, which is 17 feet behind the driver’s side window of Darren Wilson’s SUV, is this yellow fire hydrant next to the storm drain.
Our end point is 2943 Canfield. Notice the building number in the back of this photo below where Mike Brown’s father and family members are standing over the exact location where Mike Brown was killed.
So: 131 feet, 1 inch (distance between the fire hydrant and where Mike Brown died), + 17 feet (distance between the fire hydrant and the driver’s side door of Darren Wilson’s SUV) = 148 feet.The St. Louis-area police have continued to advance this lie for over 104 days since Mike Brown was killed on Canfield Drive on the afternoon of August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Here we will methodically expose this lie and examine just why it’s so important.
On this past Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri in anticipation of some level of unrest regarding a decision from the grand jury in the Darren Wilson case. Covering this decision, and the case in general, CNN authoritatively states that Mike Brown was found 35 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV.
Where the Lie Began
On August 10, 2014, St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar held his first press conference on the shooting of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the nearby Ferguson Police Department. His force had been called in to take over the investigation for the much smaller local department. The shooting had occurred less than 24 hours earlier, and the tensions on the ground in Ferguson were already red hot and boiling over.
Six different witnesses on the scene claimed that Mike Brown was shot at repeatedly from behind before he turned around, faced Darren Wilson, verbally surrendered, and put his hands in the air. Wilson, having already shot at Mike Brown at least six times while he fled, then fired off a barrage of four quick shots at the surrendered Brown he was looking at face to face, killing him on the spot. With his lifeless body face down on the road, Mike Brown’s blood literally flowed down Canfield Drive for more than four hours. The shooting and the aftermath that evening, which included bringing police dogs to the scene, infuriated residents as never before, and the anger was spreading rapidly across St. Louis and into the nation.
When Chief Belmar sat down the next day to brief the press on his summary of the facts, he stated at 1:13 (and then even more emphatically at 6:01) in the video below, “The entire scene, from approximately the car door (of Officer Wilson) to the shooting, is, uh, about 35 feet.”
At that time, when the chief said the “entire scene” was just 35 feet in distance from the “car door to the shooting,” every observer accepted it as a negligible fact and thought little about it, instead zeroing in on why Darren Wilson stopped Mike Brown in the first place and why a police officer would shoot a young man who was surrendering with his hands up.It turns, out, though, that the distance Mike Brown fled was not 35 feet, as was stated in the press conference and cited in hundreds of articles since. Nor was it 45 feet, or 75 feet, or even 95 feet, but approximately 148 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV. Below, you will find photos from the day of the murder, maps, infographics, and more to confirm for you that the distance was more 500 percent farther away than originally claimed by Chief Belmar and subsequently quoted as fact in almost every narrative of the case.
While the initial reporting of this distance from the chief could have been an error, albeit an egregious one, it seems clear now, after over 100 days of requests for the police to clarify this discrepancy have only produced silence, that it wasn’t an oversight, but a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
What reason would the chief have for so seriously understating the distance by more than 110 feet? Well, how far Mike Brown fled matters greatly, and the St. Louis County Police Department could have many reasons for purposely understating it. One doubts, though, that they expected to be caught telling this lie. When it was first told, while matters were tense in St. Louis and spreading on social media, nobody had any idea that this case would grip the nation and the world.
Without even using this space to dive into the actual shooting of Mike Brown, it appears that some base level misconduct can be suspected when the St. Louis County Police Department has repeatedly refused to address the discrepancy in distance.
When the police came out the morning after Mike Brown was killed and deliberately included the distance between the SUV and the shooting, it successfully created a very particular narrative. The arc of their initial story, magnified in importance by the absence of even one official report, is that Darren Wilson shot and killed a young man who, in a short distance from the SUV, posed him grave harm. How far Mike Brown actually fled, how far Darren Wilson chased him, and where each of them were in relation to each other and to the SUV, are facts of paramount importance. If Mike Brown fled over 148 feet away from Darren Wilson, it clearly suggests that Brown—unarmed, shot, missing a shoe, in lounge clothes—feared for his life and not the other way around.
Furthermore, police, in many cases, use the distance in which a suspect flees and the distance between them in an encounter as evidence to prove they were reasonably afraid for their safety—which is required by law.
What follows is evidence to the contrary. Mike Brown fled at least 148 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV. If the police will lie about this fact, what else have they openly lied about? Did they present this false distance to the grand jury? Why does the media continue to advance this lie? Here are the facts.
From the back of Darren Wilson’s SUV, Brown fled over 131 feet down Canfield Drive. The exact location where Brown died is today marked by a memorial in the middle of the street.
(Thank you to Argus News for measuring and filming the measurement of the distance.)