Officer Friendly & Upright Citizen Johnson

Let us stipulate that based on known evidence, Michael Brown was a petty thief who had engaged in shoplifting and had a physical altercation that involved pushing and shoving with a store clerk. Let us further stipulate that based on known evidence, Darren Wilson is a racist who had belonged to a police department so corrupted by white supremacy that it had to be disbanded entirely and replaced with a brand new department with brand new officers.

Let us stipulate further still that the two most complete testimonies of what happened, Wilson and Dorian Johnson, Brown’s companion in the store and on the street, are both self-serving to the point of being comical had they not involved the needless death of a human being.

Wilson presents himself as meek, mild Officer Friendly, single handedly standing up to the existentialist threat of demonic[1] black males; Johnson presents himself as an upright law abiding citizen who was shocked -- shocked, I say! -- when Brown shoplifted and was nothing but polite when told to get off the street.

Wilson and Johnson’s narratives twist around each other, entwining like a DNA double helix, touching here, diverging there. Either by itself makes precious little sense, but together they enable us to see a far more plausible narrative.

Officer Friendly tells us he saw Brown and Johnson walking down the middle of a street and told them to get onto the sidewalk; Upright Citizen Johnson confirms this and says they responded in a way that indicates compliance.

Officer Friendly then says he received a radio call involving an altercation at a convenience store (an altercation where neither the clerk nor the owner wanted to press charges) and having seen cigarillos (the reported stolen items) in Brown’s right hand then backed up to question Brown and Johnson; Upright Citizen Johnson says Wilson took umbrage at something Brown said or maybe something he thought Brown said as well as the fact they were not moving fast enough to suit him and threw his vehicle into reverse with a screech of tires and nearly clipped both Brown and Johnson.

Officer Friendly says as he attempted to leave his vehicle, Brown shoved the door shut, assaulted Wilson through the window, and then leaned in to grab Wilson with his left hand while passing his cigarillos to Johnson before assaulting Wilson with both hands and attempting to grab his gun because, hey, if your intent is to assault an armed man and steal his weapon who wouldn’t do it using only one hand while holding a fist full of fragile tobacco products in the other? Upright Citizen John’s version is that after nearly clipping Brown and himself, Wilson flung open his door and nearly struck Johnson at which point Brown slammed the door closed in anger.

Officer Friendly then indicated that as he was debating with himself whether to use his baton or his flashlight to fend off Brown, Brown attempted to lean into his vehicle and steal his gun, daring Wilson to shoot him.

Hold on / pause / full stop.

Really, Officer Friendly? You want to go with that story? Here’s an illustration by the Independent News of UK showing the confrontation. You were in an SUV, not a low-riding Adam-12 style squad car. In order to lean into your vehicle Brown would have had to lift the bulk of his body up and over the window frame.

Brown ferguson5

White supremacist, please…

Now, I suppose a person with a cooler head in a situation like this would have just shifted into gear, accelerated forward about 20 feet, slammed on the brakes, and then let Mother Nature and Father Physics take their course, sending the person clinging to the side of the car hurling forward into the street. But let us not judge; there is ample evidence in Officer Friendly’s testimony to indicate he does not have the psychological fortitude to be an effective police officer, and in his apparently hysterical panic this quick and efficient non-lethal means of solving the problem did not present itself to him even after -- by his own testimony -- he had done an inventory check of the weapons he had at his disposal.

Upright Citizen Johnson saw it this way: Wilson grabbed Brown’s shirt through the window and was attempting to hold onto him, Brown never tried to lean into the vehicle, Brown handed his cigarillos to Johnson, then Brown tried to break free from Wilson’s grasp.

Okay, so far in Johnson’s testimony we have resisting arrest and simple assault, both legitimate offenses. No matter how unjustified Wilson’s behavior, Brown should have complied with his instructions. You fight the police in a courtroom, not on the street.

Officer Friendly then claims Brown leaned into his vehicle and attempted to take Wilson’s gun.

If we are to believe Wilson’s version, Brown would have had to raise his center of gravity over chest level in the process, if Wilson is a right hand draw or else stay outside the vehicle and stick his arm down between the door and Wilson’s body if Wilson was a left hand drawer. I’ve looked for photos of Wilson in uniform which show his holster clearly but have found none that indicate if he is left handed or right handed.

Upright Citizen Johnson does not confirm Brown leaning into the vehicle but rather staying outside the entire time.

Let’s pause again:   If Wilson’s version of events are true, Johnson has every motive in the world to support them. It would gain him immediate favor with the local authorities, it would defuse a tense situation. If Johnson says he was shocked at Brown’s shoplifting, then it would not be implausible or at odds with previous testimony for him to say that for some reason Brown was just out of control that day.

At some point in the proceedings the gun is drawn and the two men grapple for it.

Officer Friendly indicates he drew the weapon to keep Brown from taking it and (presumably) shooting him with it, that Brown had his hands on the weapon, and that the weapon fired twice.

Okay, full stop again: Let’s follow the logic of Wilson’s story. Brown initiates the struggle for the gun by reaching in to steal the weapon, Wilson maintains enough control of the weapon to fire once, and Brown does not break off the attack and immediately attempt to flee but rather continues to struggle for the weapon to presumably turn it on Wilson.

We have gone from jaywalking shoplifter to unprovoked cop killer in about 60 seconds.

Upright Citizen Johnson saw a struggle for the gun but doesn’t know who touched the weapon first.

Full stop again.

Ask yourself this question: Let’s say you were a white person stopped by an African-American who grabs you through the window of their car then draws a gun and threatens to shoot you with it and you grapple with them to prevent from being shot; would you stop resisting after the first shot was fired if you thought you life was in still danger or would you continue to try to force the barrel of the gun away from you?

Two shots are fired from inside the car, both Officer Friendly and Upright Citizen Johnson confirm this. One shot hits the interior of the SUV. After the second shot Brown attempts to flee the scene, again both Officer Friendly and Upright Citizen Johnson confirm this.

Officer Friendly and Upright Citizen Johnson agree Wilson exits his vehicle and shoots at Brown, who is running away from his as fast as he can.

Full stop yet again.

There are rules of engagement for police officers, and they take into account public safety. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that police may not simply shoot a fleeing suspect with impunity; they must believe that the suspect is a continuing immediate threat to the safety of others and/or to the officer himself, or else that the suspect is fleeing the scene of a serious crime such as murder, rape, arson, or armed robbery.

In plain English, this means there is no legal justification for shooting at an unarmed person attempting to flee the scene of a minor crime such as resisting arrest and simple assault.

Officer Friendly and Upright Citizen Johnson both agree that at this point Brown stops and turns to face Wilson. In Wilson’s version of events Brown then turns into a demon (again, his words), grunts like an animal, and charges like a bull towards him.

Full stop: If your intent is to kill an armed police officer with your bare hands, why would you break off your attack, run away, then turn and charge the officer when he is pointing a loaded weapon at you?

Johnson reports that Brown spreads his arms out, possibly in a gesture of surrender, possibly as if to ask “why did you do that?”

Wilson then fires several rounds at Brown, hitting him, pauses to judge the efficacy of his first volley, then empties the rest of his clip into Brown.[2]  Brown sustains at least two fatal wounds, the second of which strikes the crown of his head and travels down into his brain.

Full stop: The head shot is the last shot because it is instantly fatal and Brown pitches face first to the street. According to Wilson, Brown was charging him with his head bent down like a bull. Wilson claims Brown was about 36 feet away when he started his charge. Having played football and having tackled numerous people, I assure you bending your head down and running straight at someone is a short yardage tactic; try that from ten yards away and you’ll wonder where your intended target went because they will have seen you coming and easily stepped away.

Brown w-AUTOPSY606

However, with the exception of a hand wound during the struggle at the SUV, the other wounds indicate Brown was upright and facing Wilson when first hit, not bent over at an angle. Had he been bent over and running, there would have been no straight forward wounds to the arm. Only if he had been standing upright, then began to flinch at the pain of the second wound and bent forward to protect himself from further shots can we account for the pattern of entry wounds: First a pair of shots straight in to the arm; then at a flurry of shots at a slight angle on the chest, neck, jaw, and eye (the angle on the jaw and eye wounds, which were not fatal in and of themselves, indicate Brown was flinching away from the direction of the gunshots); and finally a fatal shot straight down to the crown of his head.   The crown shot could only have occurred if Brown was bent over in pain or already toppling forward from his previous fatal injury.

So there we have it. If you believe Officer Friendly’s story, Brown was a dangerous crazed killer who had to be brought down and his death was nothing more than “suicide by cop.” If you believe Upright Citizen Johnson’s story, Brown foolishly resisted arrest and was killed for it.

With what is known about the two men, let’s meld the narratives and see what we get.

A young man engages in foolish petty criminal behavior the way young men far too often do.[3]

A racist police officer sees two young black men acting like scofflaws by jay walking and orders them to get off the road.

The two young black men do not obey quickly enough to satisfy the officer. Perhaps one of them says something in defiance, perhaps the racist police officer just thinks he said something. In either case, he sees them as defying his “authoritay” as Cartman would say and returns to confront them on this.

One of the young black men foolishly resists the racist officer.[4]

The racist police officer draws his gun to intimidate the defiant young black man. The young black man panics and reaches for the gun, trying to keep from being shot. The gun goes off.

The racist police officer panics, perhaps from anger, perhaps from fear -- not of the young black man but fear of being punished by his department. Any discharge of a weapon is going to involve a lot of reports, and damaging your own vehicle with your own gun isn’t going to look good unless you can justify it with an arrest.

The struggle continues; a second shot is fired. The young black man realizes how precarious his position is (he has sustained a minor gunshot injury to his hand at this point) and tries to flee.

A third shot is fired. The young black man stops and turns, ready to give up.

Now, I’m not saying it was the racist police officer’s intent to kill the young black man -- perhaps he was just psychologically unfit to be a police officer and/or his training was inadequate -- but it was certainly to the racist police officer’s personal benefit to justify the self-inflicted damage to his own vehicle with a narrative that involved a demonic (again, his words) young black man charging him like a bull from a distance several yards away.

All of this is tragic and unjustifiable but understandable in the realm of simple stupid human behavior.

Where we cross over into the realm of perverse evil is when we look at the establishment’s behavior after the fact.




[1]  Wilson's own words.

[2]  There was one bullet still in the chamber of his pistol after the shooting stopped.

[3]  If you think rich white kids don’t shoplift or smoke marijuana, you are sadly misinformed.

[4]  If you think rich white kids don’t defy / taunt / resist / assault the police, you need to go to Ft. Lauderdale on spring break.

Fictoid:  if you want the right answer, ask the right question

Fictoid: if you want the right answer, ask the right question