Another unarmed young black man killed by police
from various sources – December 2016
submitted by – Elliece Skeene
Updates listed at the foot of this item
On 9 August 2014, 18-year old Michael Brown was shot dead a short distance from his home in Ferguson – Missouri, by white police officer Darren Wilson. This event sparked riots throughout Ferguson as well as across the whole of the United States. Citizens were determined to stand up and let the police know that they would not stand by while young African-Americans were being shot down in the streets.
Michael Brown lived with his single mother and three siblings. His father had been somewhat estranged, but in the run-up to his death Michael had become close with his father and step-mother.
Before the summer had started Michael had graduated from Normandy high school and had enrolled into Vatterott Technical College to study heating and air-conditioning engineering. Michael was 6ft 4inches tall and although he looked mean and aggressive, his family described him as a gentle giant.
On the afternoon of August 9 Michael and his friend Dorian Johnson had stopped off at a local convenience store, which was to trigger the tragic turn of events. Whilst in the store CCTV footage released by the police shows Michael taking cigarillos. In the footage Michael can be seen taking the cigarillos from behind the counter; however before leaving the store with the unpaid items a confrontation between both Michael and the shopkeeper takes place. Resulting in a 911 call, reporting the crime.
Just ten minutes later, Officer Wilson who was driving westbound on Canfield Drive, having finished a previous call spotted both Michael and Dorian. He claims both young men stood out to him as they were walking in the middle of the road on a yellow line. He later explained in his testimony that he calmly asked the young men “what is wrong with the sidewalk?”, before Michael unexpectedly snapped “fuck what you have to say!” his friend Dorian later told CNN that officer Wilson was aggressive when he spoke to them, telling them “to get the fuck on the sidewalk”.
Soon after Michael’s reply officer Wilson began to drive on down the road. This was until he spotted cigarillos in Michael’s pocket. He quickly realised the description of the men also matched those of the reported robbery. Officer Wilson radioed through for backup assistance; he was advised to stay in his vehicle until back up had arrived. However, this was not the case!
Officer Wilson reversed his car into Michael and Dorian, to try and block them in. After this Wilson explains he tried to get out of the car but Michael kept pushing the door shut, and claiming that Michael then put his head and arms through the police vehicle and started to assault him, which then led to the first gunshot hitting Michael in the hand.
Whilst in the vehicle Wilson had a number of options to defend himself such as mace, his flashlight, his retractable baton, and his firearm. Wilson was questioned in his testimony as to why he did not use any other less harmful restraint. He explained how items were not in reach, too hard to use in a small space and his firearm was the easiest weapon at hand.
As the injured teenager ran from the scene, Wilson left his car and chased him. By this point Dorian was hiding behind a parked vehicle. However, Michael’s next movements were hotly contested. In a grand jury testimony, Wilson defended shooting the teenager by saying that he had charged towards him through gunfire “like I wasn’t even there”.
Some witnesses initially said that Brown put his hands up in a sign of surrender before Wilson shot him. However, the facts became muddied and the same witnesses said that Brown held his hands up before moving towards the officer, according to a Justice Department report published earlier in 2015.
Eye witness Tiffany Mitchell spoke with News 4 explaining what happened next. Michael jerked almost as if he were shot whilst running off, he turned with his hands up but still Officer Darren Wilson proceeded to shoot.
Officer Wilson denies firing any shots whilst Michael was running despite the various testimonies claiming Michael turned with his hands up. He also denies that Michael turned with his hands up, despite the pathologist, Shawn Parcells, demonstrating how Michael could have received the shot wound, on the outside of his lower arm.
Michael was shot at least six times that afternoon, According to Dr Michael Baden, Brown was killed by one of the bullets that struck the top of his head and entered his skull.
When asked by the prosecuting bodies why so many shots were fired that afternoon Wilson confidently explained Michael stopped running after a while, he turned at this point with a psychotic and hostile look on his face and “ran at me”. Wilson quoted how he had never seen such expression in a person before.
Michael’s exposed corpse was left in the street for 4 hours visible to neighbours, passers-by, friends and family. This caused much controversy explained Fergusons committeewoman Patricia Bynes, “The delay helped fuel the outrage”.
Three minutes – that is how long it took from the time Officer Darren Wilson confronted Michael at 12:01, and 12:04 when other officers arrived on the scene to find him already dead.
On the evening of 9 August riots and protests started due to Michael’s killing. Protests were held on the Ferguson streets, with citizens of all generations holding signs quoting ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ and ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’- both became world famous international phrases.
Considering the evidence, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in November 2014 – sparking further unrest. Months later in March 2015, two thorough US Department of Justice reports on the shooting filled in the blanks and exposed institutionalised racism and hardship in Ferguson Police Department.
If the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, in 2013 planted the seed of the Black Lives Matter movement, Brown’s death was the catalyst for the movement’s primary growth. The movement is essentially a decentralized, social-media-driven effort to call attention to the effects, mostly on communities of colour, of systemic racism, police brutality, and the exemption from punishment with which police officers have been given to act ‒ and kill ‒ in the name of the state.
2nd anniversary of Michael Brown’s death: What’s changed?
24 August 2016
Michael Brown shooting: What happened in Ferguson?
11 August 2015
Dept of Justice report into Michael Brown shooting death (PDF)
4 March 2015
Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson jury reaches verdict
25 November 2014
Ferguson protests: What we know about Michael Brown’s last minutes
25 November 2014