Thursday Reads: Police Shootings in Ferguson and BeyondPosted: August 21, 2014
While we at Sky Dancing Blog–along with many other Americans–have been following the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, often feeling shocked and traumatized by the overt racism on display among law enforcement personnel there, Fox News and some right wing blogs have focused on supporting Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown at noon on Saturday, August 9, touching off the protests and the police crackdown that has continued for the past 12 days. In the process they have also made efforts to smear Brown and undermine witnesses who saw the shooting.
Police initially claimed that Brown had assaulted Wilson in his police car and tried to take the officer’s gun. But there were a number of witnesses who reported seeing Wilson chase after Brown while shooting his weapon after which Brown turned around with his hands up, trying to surrender.
On August 15, without informing Governor Nixon or the Captain Ron Johnson, who was in charge of security during the protests, Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson released a 19-page document naming Michael Brown as a suspect in an alleged robbery of $48 worth of cigarillos at a Ferguson convenience store. The alleged “strong-arm” robbery took place shortly before Brown was killed. The obvious implication was that Brown deserved to die for this. Jackson also appeared on The Sean Hannity Show to push this narrative.
Later Jackson was forced to admit that shooter Darren Wilson didn’t know about the alleged robbery, and therefore it had nothing to the shooting. Recently we learned that police didn’t even have the video showing the convenience story “robbery” until days after the shooting, and the video appeared to show that Brown had actually paid for the box of cigarillos he took with him.
Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been documenting the latest right wing efforts to smear Brown and rehabilitate Wilson. On Tuesday, he linked to a post by Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit citing anonymous sources that claimed Darren Wilson had suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” during the struggle with Michael Brown. Johnson writes:
The entire right wing universe (including Drudge Report) is now screaming about this post by, yes, the Dumbest Man on the Internet again, claiming that anonymous sources told him officer Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” in a struggle with unarmed teenager Michael Brown [NOTE: I’m not going to link to Gateway Pundit; you can find the link at LGF].
It’s possible that someone did leak this information to Hoft, but I’ll remind my readers that Jim Hoft is probably the single most dishonest right wing blogger on the Internet as well as the dumbest, with a very long history of distorting facts and completely making stuff up to push his far right, often overtly racist agenda.
Johnson looked up the symptoms of an “orbital blowout fracture” and quoted the from description:
The most common symptoms are bruising, tenderness and swelling around the eye; redness of the eye; double vision, ordiplopia (seeing two images at the same time); numbness of the cheek, nose or teeth; nose bleeds (epistaxis) [See figure 1].
Symptoms that typically indicate a more serious injury are pain on eye movement, double vision, air under the skin around the eye, and numbness of the cheek/mouth/nose on the side of the injury. Severe trauma may cause facial bone fractures, injury to the eye itself, and injuries to the skull/brain.
You’d think someone who had just experienced such a serious eye injury would be in terrible pain and would have difficulty accurately shooting a gun. You also think he would need immediate medical attention; yet no ambulance was called for either Brown or Wilson, and Wilson was video taped walking near Brown’s body and show no signs of discomfort. Here’s the cell phone video taken by eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw.
Yesterday this story showed up on Fox News, with Bill O’Reilly reporting the “orbital blowout” claim; and today ABC News is reporting that Wilson suffered “a serious facial injury,” although they aren’t including the “orbital blowout fracture” claim. ABC news also has a video interview with an anonymous friend of Wilson’s. It’s odd that Wilson’s friends and supporters don’t want to give their names or show their faces while the eyewitnesses to the shooting have been upfront and straightforward about what they saw.
As for the facial injury, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there is trial. At that point Wilson will need to produce medical records to prove he had a serious injury and had it promptly treated. Even then, we still won’t know how it happened. For all we know, he could have hit himself with his gun or on the car door. I can’t help but be reminded of George Zimmerman’s claims of serious injuries caused by Trayvon Martin–the injuries he didn’t bother to have a doctor examine until the next day. The bottom line is that even if Wilson actually was injured, Michael Brown should be alive and in jail now. Instead, Wilson chose to execute him on the spot.
The latest smear from right wing Wilson supporters is that Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson has “recanted” his eyewitness version of the shooting. Once again, Charles Johnson responds, Did Michael Brown’s Friend Dorian Johnson “Recant” His Story? No, He Did Not.
Finally, a right wing site is raising money for Darren Wilson, and they have collected nearly $150,000 in the past three days.
The good news is that Ferguson was fairly calm yesterday after the visit from Attorney General Eric Holder. From The Washington Post, Eric H. Holder Jr., in Ferguson, shares painful memories of racism.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. arrived in the St. Louis area Wednesday to tour a community roiled by the police shooting of an unarmed African American teen — nine months after he had visited the same city to tout new initiatives aimed at keeping poor black men out of prison.
Long before the white-hot spotlight of the racially charged protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Holder had been intent on reforming an American criminal justice system that he said imposed “shameful” disparities on minority communities. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 has thrust Holder, 63, into the heart of a national debate over racial justice that he has aimed to make part of his legacy.
In meetings with residents, Holder shared his own stories of being pulled over and accosted by police while growing up in New York City — and of being skeptical of police even while serving as a federal prosecutor in Washington.
“I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said during an appearance at Florissant Valley Community College. “I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells ‘where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’ ”
Not far from the spot where Michael Brown died, another young black man was killed by St. Louis Metropolitan Police on Tuesday. A video of the shooting was released yesterday. From Huffington Post, St. Louis Police Release Video Of Kajieme Powell Killing That Appears At Odds With Their Story, by Ryan Grimm and Ashley Alman.
A convenience store owner called 911 on Tuesday when he suspected Powell stole drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the call. Another woman called to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.
Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife “in an overhand grip.”
But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.
Kajieme Powell apparently had long-term psychological problems. I’m not going to watch the video, but even in the still photo from the LA Times above, it looks to me as if police could have disarmed Powell and arrested him without using deadly force. The knife wasn’t raised as police claimed, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be within three feet of the officers.
A mentally disturbed man was killed by police in Sacramento, California on Monday. The Sacramento Bee reports:
Jeffrey Towe lived with delusions and profound mental illness, family members say. On Monday, he became the ninth person in the Sacramento region to die of police gunfire this year.
Towe, 53, fatally shot his own mother in 1990 in an incident that he said was a household accident. Two weeks ago, he delivered a collection of knives to his sister, telling her he couldn’t be trusted around them.
A Woodland police officer shot him dead Monday after authorities said Towe allegedly charged with a knife after officers arrived at his apartment building in response to a call about a disturbed, screaming man.
Towe’s death prompted local activists to converge Monday evening in Woodland, already motivated by the national story of the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and law enforcement response to protests there. They congregated downtown, blocking an intersection, chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” – a slogan popularized in Ferguson.
In that incident, a California Highway Patrol officer shot and wounded a man who allegedly pulled a gun on officers in a drunken-driving stop. The suspect, who was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, was identified as Heath Austin Nunes, 38, of Lincoln.
The four-county Sacramento region, which includes Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties, this year has nearly doubled the five fatal officer-involved shootings in 2013. In 2012, there were 16 fatal police shootings, including a record 10 by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Statewide, California averaged 100 annual deaths from police shootings from 2006 to 2011.
The United States has no database of police shootings. There is no standardized process by which officers log when they’ve discharged their weapons and why. There is no central infrastructure for handling that information and making it public. Researchers, confronted with the reality that there are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the country, aren’t even sure how you’d go about setting one up. No one is keeping track of how many American citizens are shot by their police. This is crazy. This is governmental malpractice on a national scale. We’d like your help in changing this.
Here, we’re going to take a cue from Jim Fisher, who as far as we can tell has compiled the most comprehensive set of data on police shootings in 2011. Fisher’s method was simple: He searched for any police-involved shooting every day for an entire year. By our lights, this is the best way to scrape this information—any time a police officer shoots and hits a citizen, it will almost certainly make a local news report, at least. However, this is a time-intensive process, and our manpower is limited. Having gathered some of the data, we can say it will take the few of us here a very long time to do this on our own. So, we’re setting up a public submission form and asking for help with this project.
Check it out if you’re interested.
So I’ve run out of space and time for this post. There’s plenty of other news, so I’ll post some more links in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same.