LAW & DISORDER: Ferguson Burns

The Full Grand Jury Report

NEW YORK TIMES: A St. Louis County grand jury decided on Monday not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson, Mo. Unraveling how the grand jury came to its decision remains something of a mystery – the jury’s deliberations were confidential – but in thousands of pages of testimony and forensic evidence, clues emerge. Officer Wilson’s testimony, in particular, stands out both for what he says, and how he describes what happened. Officer Wilson begins by telling prosecutors some basic personal information – that he is nearly 6-foot-4 and weighs around 210 pounds. He then proceeds to explain why, in his view, the episode with Mr. Brown – whom he compares to a demon and Hulk Hogan – became violent.

The Altercation

Officer Wilson’s initial description of Mr. Brown focuses on three things: his size, that he was walking in the middle of the street with a friend, Dorian Johnson, and that Mr. Brown was wearing socks with the image of green marijuana leaves. He recalls his first verbal exchange with Mr. Brown in stark terms.
From Page 13 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

I see them walking down the middle of the street. And first thing that struck me was they’re walking in the middle of the street. I had already seen a couple cars trying to pass, but they couldn’t have traffic normal because they were in the middle, so one had to stop to let the car go around and then another car would come. And the next thing I noticed was the size of the individuals because either the first one was really small or the second one was really big.

And just for the conversation, I didn’t know this then, but the first one’s name was Dorian Johnson, the second one was Michael Brown. That was discovered, I think, the following day is when I learned the names. I had never seen them before.

He said he noticed at that point that Mr. Brown was carrying cigarillos – potentially tying him to a recent report of theft at a convenience store. He said that he had ordered Mr. Brown to get back, but that Mr. Brown became only more threatening.
From Page 16 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

He then grabs my door again and shuts my door. At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle. His head was higher than the top of my car. And I see him ducking and as he is ducking, his hands are up and he is coming in my vehicle. I had shielded myself in this type of manner and kind of locked away, so I don’t remember seeing him come at me, but I was hit right in the side of the face with a fist. I don’t think it was a full-on swing, I think it was a full-on swing, but not a full shot. I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face.

Officer Wilson said the altercation at the car window continued to escalate.
From Page 18 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

And he said, “Hey man, hold these.” And at that point I tried to hold his right arm because it was like this at my car. This is my car window. I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to get out to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car any more. And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.

Attorney: Holding onto a what?

Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.

He continued to provide testimony suggesting that he felt afraid for his life. And the prosecutors often did very little to question that sentiment.
From Page 22 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.

The Gun

Officer Wilson also revealed details of what he said was an effort by Mr. Brown to grab his gun. He again quotes Mr. Brown insulting him with a common vulgarity, and then describes the specific physicality of the episode.
From Page 29 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

He grabs my gun, says, “You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.” The gun goes down into my hip and at that point I thought I was getting shot. I can feel his fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger and I distinctly remember envisioning a bullet going into my leg. I thought that was the next step.

This appears to have been the moment, according to Officer Wilson’s account, when he decided he had the right to shoot. But the weapon did not cooperate.
From Page 30 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again. At this point I’m like why isn’t this working, this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun. I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time.

The gunshot startled Mr. Brown, Officer Wilson said. The young man stepped back. And then came forward. He had his hands up, but Officer Wilson did not see this as a sign of surrender – quite the opposite.
From Page 31 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.

Officer Wilson said Mr. Brown hit him again, though he admits he could not be sure if he was being punched. Then he pulled the trigger again from inside the car. He remembered firing two shots, then he said Mr. Brown ran. Officer Wilson said he chased him until Mr. Brown stopped by a light pole.
From Page 32 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

When I look up after that, I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him. I then get out of my car. As I’m getting out of the car I tell dispatch, “shots fired, send me more cars.” We start running, kind of the same direction that Johnson had pointed. Across the street like a diagonal towards this, kind of like where the parking lot came in for Copper Creek Court and Canfield, right at that intersection. And there is a light pole right there, I remember him running towards the light pole.

The End

For Mr. Brown, these were his final moments. Here is Officer Wilson’s account of those last few seconds, quoted at length.
From Page 33 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.

From Page 34 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.

From Page 35 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot.I don’t know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped. MORE

Boldfaced passages beggar belief