Earlier this morning the police chief, Thomas Jackson, gave a brief press statement, I say statement because he did not take questions, in which he disclosed that Michael Brown, who was gunned down last Saturday by a Ferguson police officer, was a robbery suspect.
It was difficult to draw any honorable intentions. While Jackson pointedly did not say that an attempt to detain Brown as a robbery suspect, the documents he released left many with the impression that was the case. Later today, Jackson gave another press statement in which he made clear what he had hidden earlier:
The Ferguson police chief said Friday afternoon that the initial contact between an officer and Michael Brown, which ended with Brown shot dead, was not connected to a robbery that had occurred shortly before Brown was killed.
“The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery,” Thomas Jackson, the police chief, said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Rather, it stemmed from the fact that Brown and his friend were “walking down the street blocking traffic,” Jackson said.
While this corresponds with what Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, had been telling media outlets, it does appear to contradict the conclusion that many had drawn from a news conference Jackson had held earlier in the day. Jackson had said that Brown was the suspect in a robbery that occurred not far from where he was killed, releasing a police report and video footage connected to the robbery.
This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the original statement was calculated to throw up a smokescreen and at some point Jackson was forced to set the record straight. If Jackson was involved in crafting the first statement he should be fired. If he wasn't he should have to fire whoever was responsible before being fired.
Assuming Brown was the one who allegedly pushed Wilson, he may have been inside the car but he wasn’t sitting there listening to the police radio. Then again, if Wilson had the window down, the police radio may have been audible to both men while they were talking.
A look at the timeline of events based on the police documents indicates this isn't the case:
11:48 a.m. — Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson arrives at a residence in response to an unrelated call about a 2-month-old child having difficulty breathing when she coughs.
11:51 a.m. — Ferguson police receive a call of a robbery in progress at the Ferguson Market convenience store.
11:54 a.m. — A different, unidentified officer arrives at the Ferguson Market and gets a physical description from an employee and customer of a suspect who took some cigars.
11:57 a.m. — A police dispatcher broadcasts a detailed description of the robbery suspect, saying that he was wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals ball cap and yellow socks and was walking with another man toward another convenience store called QuikTrip.
12:00 p.m. — Officer Wilson leaves the scene of the call about a sick child.
12:01 p.m. — Officer Wilson encounters Michael Brown walking on a street and the shooting follows. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Friday that Wilson did not know about the robbery at the convenience store when he encountered Brown.
12:04 p.m. — Another officer arrives on the scene after the shooting, and an ambulance is contacted to treat Brown's wounds.
Wilson was not in his car and was probably preoccupied with what he was doing on his current call and the shooting occurred within 1-2 minutes of Wilson returning to his car.
Quite simply, the stealing of a box of very cheap cigars and intimidating a clerk had no bearing on the officer's conduct, and seems to have had none on the conduct of Brown and his friend. Walking down the street and shooting your mouth off at a police officer are not behaviors any sane person associates with trying to elude police. From their actions, there is a good chance that Brown and his friend didn't even know a police report had been made.
All evidence from witnesses and police now supports the encounter being a very banal one:
Dorian Johnson, 22, told CNN that he and Brown were walking in the middle of the street when a white male officer pulled up and told them, "Get the f*** on the sidewalk." The young men replied that they were "not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street," Johnson said.
Half of this sounds true. Their reply was undoubtedly a lot more colorful than "gee, officer, we're sorry" that the witness attributes to them. What happened afterwards is still under investigation but at the time of the contact with Brown, all the police office.
We don't yet know what precipitated the gunfire but unless jaywalking and contempt of cop have suddenly become capital offenses we've passed the "benefit of the doubt" stage and are in the "innocent until proven guilty" phase.