Whew boy, I stayed out of this one for a while, and I still don’t think I have enough evidence to cement a solid position, buuuuut here goes.
I’m going to say what I think about the situation given what I’ve learned so far.
Right now I can’t really fall on one side or another, but I can gather this.
Micheal Brown did at least shoplift, and the security footage of him shoving the clerk made it robbery. Does that justify shooting him? No. Additionally, he was clearly no child, in fact being over 18 he was legally (and physically) an adult. In fact he was bigger than I am and I’m by no means a small person (6’2” 250lb here). Does that alone justify shooting him? No, if it did, we’d have police gunning down body builders and tall people all day long.
Did he assault an officer? I don’t know. The reports of the officer’s injuries circulating on the Internet aren’t confirmed, and likely won’t be until a full review and possibly a trial are completed.
Here’s what we can gather based on the information available about the actual shooting. Micheal Brown was struck by 6 rounds, one of which was in the top of the head. This sounds excessive, but police shootings often do involve quite a few shots. Police are trained to shoot to stop, and this means, continuing to fire until the attacker goes down. As bullet wounds are rarely instantly fatal, and a gun can be fired multiple times in a second, especially by someone with the proper training, it’s very easy to dump quite a few rounds into someone before the attack ceases. That is one possibility. A shot in the top of the head could be the result of Brown being shot while already on the ground, or it could be the result of being shot while charging someone. Either is possible. The direction of the shots would tell us more, but that information doesn’t appear to be released. Bullets, and especially hollow points leave distinctly different entry and exit wounds. It would clear up a lot if we knew whether he was struck head on or in the back. As you can see the facts are still muddy, so I’m not really willing to condemn either party at this point.
Here’s where my opinion enters the picture. Brown did not have a weapon drawn. While a civilian under attack by a larger and stronger individual could be justified in shooting due to disparity of force, police are held to a higher standard than that, which is the use of force continuum. The officer is typically to go one step above the force they are faced with. That means when dealing with an unarmed attacker, they’re to use less than lethal methods first before resorting to shooting. This can be pepper spray, baton, or taser. In this case, if the officer was under attack, unless he was pinned, and Brown was going to attempt to take his gun, a taser would have been a more appropriate response.
Why did the officer jump immediately to deadly force? I don’t think it’s so villainous as people make it out to be. I don’t think he got out of bed that morning saying “today I will hunt the most dangerous game of all, man.” Here are a few possibilities. The officer made a bad call under stress. This happens to every human being at some point, and yes, if someone can’t make good snap judgments under stress, then they probably should be in another line of work. The officer was poorly trained in the use of force, which is an issue for the entire department to deal with. The officer simply did not care about the use of force continuum, and callously chose to escalate to deadly force immediately (which I think is the conclusion a lot of people are jumping to, and I won’t say it’s not possible). The officer mistakenly believed Brown had a weapon (this happens a lot too. Poor lighting and other conditions can cause errors in perception, leading to making a bad call about whether someone is armed). Brown legitimately had the officer in a situation where his life was in immediate danger, such as pinning him and reaching for his weapon.
Ultimately I can’t say what happened any more than anyone else, and until there’s been a full review including all eye witness statements, and autopsy and medical reports, there isn’t enough evidence about the shooting its self. A camera on the scene really would have helped to avoid this whole mess.
Now let’s talk about the popular response. The officer in question was suspended with pay after the incident. This has a lot of people angry, but what they need to understand is that this is normal procedure while a police shooting is investigated. This happens every time a LEO shoots someone. They’re suspended with pay while the incident is reviewed. If ruled a good shoot, then they return to the force. Otherwise it can go to trial. The incident is still under review, so the response right now is excessive. If it’s ruled a good shoot and evidence suggests otherwise, THEN there’s something to be angry about.
That’s not saying that you can’t protest the shooting. It is your first amendment right to protest, so long as you do so peacefully, and MOST of the protesters are. Those who are rioting, looting, destroying property, and threatening lives are inexcusable. Being angry is not an excuse to victimize people who’ve done you no wrong.
On the police side, the use of force, even if is less lethal, against peaceful protesters is equally inexcusable. I have no problem with law enforcement having the gear they need to combat modern criminals, and body armor to help make sure they come home safely each day, but there is a time and place for such things, and deploying such gear in a peaceful protest is far too extreme, and attacking protesters is even worse, and threatening reporters trying to learn the truth is outright villainous. I really see no justification for going this far. This is corruption and authoritarianism at work, and is only serving to escalate the situation rather than resolve it.
In the end I still have no opinion other than that both sides need to chill the hell out, and stop resorting to violence before the case is even reviewed.
In any event, this is a gun blog, so unless gun rights get mixed into this affair, I won’t be talking about it any further.