Ferguson, The Facts As We Know Them

August 9th, 11:51 am, an unnamed citizen at the Ferguson Market and Liquor placed a 911 call that reported two young men coming into the store, one of which assaulted a clerk and then left without paying with a box of cigarillos. The call reported the two were last seen walking toward a nearby QuikTrip. A few minutes later Darren Wilson encountered Dorian Johnson (22) and Michael Brown (18) who were walking down the street. An altercation ensued, and by the time an ambulance arrived, at 12:04 PM, Michael Brown was dead.

Autopsy reports have shown that Brown was shot at least six times. Two of these shots were fired at his head, one at the top of his skull. It was these shots that proved to be fatal. All of the shots indicate that Brown was facing Wilson the entire time, but the shot at the top of his head indicates that he had been bowed towards Wilson, meaning he was either trying to kneel and surrender or charge at the officer head-on. The first shot was fired at Brown’s hand from a close range (as indicated by gun shot residue on his hand and sleeve), and the rest were fired from a few feet away. Multiple autopsies were conducted, which provided consistent results.

The controversy of this case, however, is found in the events that occurred between the time Darren Wilson pulled up next to Dorian Johnson and Michael Brown and the time the ambulance arrived. Few things are known for certain. It is known that Johnson and Brown were walking in the road, but it’s what happened next where the inconsistencies begin. According to the police report, Wilson said, “Come on guys. Get out of the street,” because they were in the middle of the road and blocking traffic, to which Brown and Johnson responded by yelling and cursing. But witness accounts report that Wilson said something more along the lines of, “Get the f*** out of the street,” which caused Johnson and Brown to respond that they were less than a minute away from their destination. After this, both accounts agree that Wilson backed up his police cruiser to where Brown and Johnson were standing. It’s from here the situation gets even more convoluted. We know for certain that Michael Brown was leaning through the car window when the first shot was fired, forensic evidence can tell us that much. How and why he came to be leaning through the car window is another story.

Police reports indicate that Michael Brown started to attack Darren Wilson, repeatedly slamming the car door and preventing Wilson from exiting his vehicle. It was at that point, the report states, that there was a struggle for Wilson’s gun, and Wilson fired the first shot. After this shot was fired both Johnson and Brown ran away. They got approximately 35 feet from the car when Wilson pulled his gun on them both and yelled, “Freeze!” The police report claims that this caused Brown to aggressively rush at Wilson, which induced the officer to fire multiple shots. The final and fatal shot was through the top of Brown’s head. This sequence of events is all from the police report and does match most of the case’s physical evidence. However, it clashes a great deal with the witness reports.

Dorian Johnson was with Brown and Wilson during the entire incident, so it is concerning for his testimony to be so different from the police report. Johnson claims that Brown didn’t attack Wilson at all; it was Wilson pulling Brown through the car window by his shirt collar, Brown was just trying to get away. Wilson then said, “I’ll shoot,” and pulled out his gun, resulting in the gunshot to Brown’s hand. Johnson stated that there was no struggle for the gun because it was pulled on the two almost immediately. Other nearby witnesses say that Brown began to back away at this point, although Wilson was still trying to pull him into the vehicle. Johnson and Brown began to run away, but when Wilson told them to freeze and turn around Brown put his hands above his head and turned toward him. Wilson had been firing since Brown had begun running, even when Brown was on the ground surrendering Wilson continued shooting, stopping only when he had shot the top of Brown’s head. Again, this version of events supports physical evidence that was found, but doesn’t follow the specifics that were in the police report.

The controversy over this case is that of racial prejudices in our police system, an issue that boiled over after this incident. So even though the decision has been made to not indict Darren Wilson, it seems unlikely this will be forgotten anytime soon. Following this case we will most likely see our police system go through changes, but if those changes will be for the better or the worse is still unclear.