At the outset, we should emphasize that a tremendous amount of fog of war is still clouding our ability to know exactly what happened in Ferguson. My contention all along has been that the self-exonerating reports of police should be greeted with equal suspicion as self-exonerating reports of suspects. Two pieces of alleged evidence have come forth today and have been touted by the reflexive defenders of police as evidence that “SEE, WE KNEW THE POLICE WERE RIGHT.” The first of these is the suggestion that the officer who shot Mike Brown suffered an “orbital blowout fracture” which, if true, would prove at least that Mike Brown physically assaulted officer Darren Wilson during the course of their encounter. A google search for “orbital blowout fracture Ferguson” shows that this story has made the rounds on many conservative websites.
There are at least two good reasons to as yet doubt the veracity of this report. The first and more important is that as yet literally the only independent source of this allegation is Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, who has never been known to shy away from sensationalism in the past. In fact, there is clear and convincing evidence of sensationalism even within Hoft’s post – here is the portion of his post where he shows an MRI of an orbital bone fracture:
Here is a stock image of an orbital blowout fracture from the American Association for Pediatric Opthalmology and Strabismus:
Obviously, Hoft lifted this image directly, scrubbed the words “UNIV OF IOWA ETC-CT” from the bottom and inserted it into his post. To be fair, Hoft never explicitly says that the CT Scan in his post was that of the officer; however, he clearly invites the reader to draw that impression. Further, there is no convincing reason to scrub the reference to the University of Iowa other than to hide the fact that this is very obviously not a CT Scan of Officer Wilson. Playing it straight is clearly not on the agenda here. UPDATE: As you can note, the image on GatewayPundit says (file image) in text below it. Your Mileage May Vary as to whether this is a sufficient disclaimer within the context of this post that the image was not in fact a CT Scan of Darren Wilson, or whether it explains why the “Univ of Iowa” label was scrubbed from the version that appeared on Hoft’s site.
Secondly, if true, this fact would be a game changer in terms of both the narrative and the public sentiment in Ferguson. There is no convincing reason for the Ferguson PD to have sat on this information for two solid weeks while their town burned around them when they had evidence in their possession the entire time that would have substantially aided in defusing the situation. Even supposing that the Ferguson PD was under orders from someone not to release this information for some as-yet-unascertainable reason, the idea that two police officers would go rogue and deliver it to… Jim Hoft, as opposed to someone with, say, a television audience, beggars the imagination. It may yet develop that this fact is true; however, the information on hand causes me to seriously doubt it.
The second story making the rounds is that the police have a “dozen witnesses” who supposedly back up the story told by the friend of the friend of Darren Wilson on the Dana Loesch show – namely, that Darren Wilson only fired on Mike Brown after Brown charged him. Another google search shows how quickly this story has made the rounds. This story, however, suffers from the same single-source problems and plausibility problems as the first. The story appears to have had its genesis with a single St. Louis Dispatch reporter named Christine Byers who tweeted it from her personal twitter account – and who has since retracted the tweets.
In a statement from the St. Louis Dispatch, the paper said that Byers had been on medical leave since March, and “is not involved in the Ferguson coverage while she is on leave.”
Again we face the problem that various members of the Ferguson PD have been interviewed by the media repeatedly since the rioting began. If they had information from these dozen witnesses corroborating an exonerating version of events and have sat on them in favor of trying to restore order with APCs rather than with facts that might calm an enraged populace, then they are substantially to blame for a significant part of the damage that has occurred. Not only that, but several eyewitnesses who have told the “surrender” version of events have found the media to tell their story directly – not one of these alleged dozen witnesses could have found their way directly to a media outlet to tell their story? None of them could get in front of anyone who might direct them to Sean Hannity’s producer, for instance? A friend of a friend of Darren Wilson had even a third hand account of what occurred that exonerated Wilson and was immediately placed on air on the Dana Loesch show – are we to believe that these dozen people are out there with information that could help calm their home town and none of them have thought to call the media directly?
The opponents of the civil unrest in Ferguson have berated the critics of the Ferguson PD for jumping to conclusions too quickly and for not waiting for all the facts to come in. Sadly, too many are all too willing to convict Mike Brown of having caused his own death on even flimsier facts than the rioters allegedly had when the unrest began.
Unfortunately right now the two sides have mostly fixed their preconceptions of what happened on that fateful Friday between Darren Wilson and Mike Brown, and information that tends to fit those preconceptions is accepted even if unsupported or implausible, whereas evidence to the contrary is rejected almost no matter what. The truth as we have noted here before, is probably significantly more complicated than either side is willing to admit, and does not change the larger questions that have been raised about police operating procedures across the country.