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Ferguson: Bad Decisions, Not Race

“My white privilege is the only thing keeping me alive.” I saw this comment on a social media site the other day in which a woman was responding to the whole Ferguson situation. The absurdity of that statement is what prompted me to write this article. It’s not the color of her skin that’s keeping her alive. It’s the basic use of common sense. For me, what happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with race and everything to do with bad decisions.

I have a different angle than most people when it comes to this situation. I’ve been on both sides of the law. I had been arrested several times as a teenager and in my early twenties for misdemeanor charges and spent a couple nights in the clank. Every time I got in trouble, I started blaming the police. It was simply a knee-jerk reaction and for some reason I believed it was never my fault. I was 23 years old and sitting in a cold jail cell at about 4:00 am when I had my epiphany. I finally realized that if I stopped making stupid decisions and hanging around people who made stupid decisions, then I would stay out of trouble. With my newfound clarity, I set out to turn things around. Low and behold its 11 years later and I haven’t had any problems with law enforcement since. Act like an adult and take responsibility for your actions. Amazing what some common sense will do for you.

As I said, I’ve been on both sides of the law. I also spent about a year working at a local prison as a corrections officer. I went through months of training as required by the state of Virginia in order to become an officer. Training was not as extensive as the police force, but still a great deal of time nonetheless. To be honest, I hated the job. Some people love that type of work but it just wasn’t for me. But while I was there, I learned a few things about the law and its enforcers that I’ve taken with me in my life. It certainly allows me to see different sides to the Michael Brown case. I remember sitting down at a desk in front of the Lieutenant on duty and being told, “we look out for one another.” I was told that whatever decisions I made and actions I took would be backed up by the other officers 100%. Well, sort of. I would be backed up in front of the inmates. We couldn’t let the bad guys see indecision or bickering amongst ourselves. However, if I screwed up really bad, I would expect to be called in behind closed doors for a good reaming. But really, I liked hearing that I had a whole force of men and women who were there to back me up. It boosted my confidence level. And let me assure you, you better be chock-full of confidence when walking around unarmed amidst a sea of inmates by yourself. But all of that backing is two-fold. It also meant that I had to back other officer’s decisions and actions. No matter what. Even if they were wrong. This left a sour taste in my mouth, to say the least. I understood the necessity of having each other’s backs. I really did. But I also didn’t like the fact that there could be a time when I would have to sell out my own principles and morals to back another officer. But that’s how it works. That’s why it’s so hard to bring up indictments against officers. It’s because they’re all looking out for one another. The whole legal system is looking out for one another. From judges, to prosecutors, to lawyers, to officers. They don’t throw each other under the bus.

I understand the situation in Ferguson is a very complex issue. But it’s in my nature to simplify things. To look at the nuts and bolts. I want the basic facts. But that’s the thing with Ferguson, nobody seems to know exactly what happened. You can rest assured the media is also doing their part to put a twist on it and this makes it more difficult to analyze without having been there and a part of it. But still, there are two main facts that we can look at to get an idea of what happened. The event(s) leading up to the shooting, and the shooting itself.

081514_storeFact #1: Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery moments before the shooting. He walks into a neighborhood store that he frequents and steals a box of cheap cigars. Then on the way out, he physically assaults the store owner. He does this in his own neighborhood. In a place where everybody knows him. Without trying to conceal his identity. In broad daylight. On camera. Michael Brown was not ignorant of the law. He understood that stealing and assaulting people was wrong. He simply made the decision to go through with it. If he wasn’t killed, that camera footage would’ve been on an episode of Dumbest Criminals Volume 17 with a bunch of C-list actors making fun of him. So after stealing the cigars, he doesn’t even run. He walks down the street with his buddy like there would be no consequences. Really?! The question I’d love to ask Brown would be, “What the f*ck were you thinking?” He was supposed to start college the next day. Yet, decides to engage in this type of serious criminal behavior. Regardless of why he did it, it lets me know the kind of person he was. A loser. However, being a loser and robbing a store while assaulting the owner isn’t a reason to shoot him.

Fact #2: Michael Brown physically assaulted Darren Wilson and tried to take his gun. Forensic reports showed that Michael Brown’s blood was on Officer Wilson’s gun and also on Officer Wilson’s shirt and in the cruiser as well. This backed up Wilson’s claim that Brown attacked him in the car. Also, three independent autopsy reports showed that Brown had gun powder residue on his hand where he was shot and fragments from the barrel of the gun. The only way this could’ve happened is if Brown was grabbing the gun when it went off. Whether you like it or not, it’s the truth. Again, I would’ve loved to ask Brown, “What the f*ck were you thinking?” Seriously folks, who attacks an officer and tries to take his gun? See fact #1 for your answer. Michael Brown made the decision to attack the officer.

table-finalfinalup4After the first shot, that’s where the confusion really sets in. The eye witness testimony varied wildly and it’s difficult (for me at least) to figure out exactly what happened. I’ve done my fair share of research on what I thought transpired. Before I go any farther I’d like to make it clear that if Wilson did in fact gun down Brown in the street while trying to surrender, then the case needs to be pursued until justice is served. However, the evidence shows that Brown didn’t have his hands in the air when he was shot, he was facing Wilson, and he was moving towards him. Either way, we haven’t heard the last of this case. While doing some research, I kept thinking about what the Major told me when I first started as a corrections officer. I was asking him about some different tactics that we could and couldn’t use to subdue an inmate. He told me, “If your life is in danger, you do whatever you have to do to stay alive”. And that’s the truth. I don’t care if Brown was unarmed. More people are killed in the United States every year from blows to the head via fists and feet than from guns. The main point to focus on is that Brown tried taking Wilson’s gun. It wasn’t until he was shot that he backed off. Understand that we’re talking about a life and death struggle. If I was the officer, I would’ve certainly shot him as well. And, if Wilson’s testimony was true, I would’ve continued shooting Brown as he charged at me. Not because I’m a racist. But because I would want to preserve my life. I would’ve emptied the clip and reloaded. I certainly wouldn’t have holstered the gun and pulled out pepper spray or a baton. Why switch to a less effective means of defense? Remember, he’s already put a bullet in his hand and it didn’t stop him. That’s the thing about law enforcement officers. They’re not interested in giving you a fair fight. They want the upper hand in every situation. To stay in control. To go home at the end of the shift. I would too.

If you want to point fingers and place blame for Brown’s death, then look no further than Brown himself. Nobody made him steal the cigars and assault the owner of the store. Nobody. More importantly, nobody made him attack Wilson. He did it on his own free will. It wasn’t racism that made him do it. It was stupid decisions and he paid for it with his life. Yes, Officer Wilson did kill Brown. But it was Brown who put him in that situation to begin with. Don’t want to get killed by the police? Don’t put an officer in a situation where he has to make the call whether or not to pull the trigger. It’s that simple.

Now, if you want to point fingers as to why Wilson wasn’t indicted, then look no further than the prosecution. In Brian’s article on Ferguson, he thoroughly discusses how the grand jury was misled. I 100% agree with this. It may seem like I’m contradicting myself. But I do believe there was ample evidence to indict Wilson and take him to trial. Do I think Wilson was given special treatment because he was an officer? You bet your ass I do. I know it. Wilson’s superiors scrambled to make sure his story was straight and obviously the prosecutors didn’t want to indict him. They wanted to make sure the story was air tight. They wanted an open and shut case. Like I said earlier, they’ve got each other’s backs. However, that doesn’t mean Officer Wilson was lying about what happened. Understand the prosecution wasn’t trying to get Officer Wilson off because he was white or because the man he shot was black. They were trying to get Officer Wilson off because he was, well, an officer.

Regardless as to how this whole thing plays out, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead and Officer Wilson killed him. But understand that Brown’s actions and decisions are the reason it came to this point. Had he just surrendered to Wilson then this would’ve never happened. Moreover, if he hadn’t stolen a box of cigars, there would be a young man getting ready to finish up his first semester of college in Ferguson. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with race. Nothing. Don’t get played into thinking Brown died because he was black or that Wilson killed him because Wilson was white. The only reason race has become an issue is because the media needs ratings, political parties need votes, and Jackson and Sharpton need a paycheck. The sad part is that a young man made some extremely poor decisions that cost him his life. What’s worse is there are people and groups exploiting his death for their own gain.

Paul Craft
Paul was born, raised in the historic town of Fincastle, Va (just outside of Roanoke). He lives on a registered “Century Farm” that has been in his family since 1906 in a house that was built in the 1790s. His farm has over 300 hundred head of cattle, 6 donkeys, 17 chickens and various other animals along with his dogs, Mike, Buster, and Loki. Paul is married and has three step-children. Paul graduated from Emory and Henry College in 2004 with a degree in Geography and an emphasis in environmental studies. Paul works as a Mental Health Counselor and is currently working towards his Masters Degree in Counseling through Liberty University and will soon be a Christian Counselor.

6 thoughts on “Ferguson: Bad Decisions, Not Race

  1. If this case is viewed in a vacuum, and as a stand alone event, I would 100% agree with everything Paul said (barring the fact that the biggest point of agreement between witnesses is that Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him). As a stand alone event, this was a very reasonable explanation of what happened and why, and race would not be a factor because Brown did make some bad decisions that could explain everything else that happened. However, when you view this in light of everything else that has happened and continues to happen in this country, it becomes clear that this shooting is part of a larger pattern. Paul mentions Brown stealing cigars, that’s part of the pattern right there (blame the victim). Wilson did not initially interact with Brown because he thought he was a suspect, he interacted with him because he was walking in the street. If we’re going to talk about the actions that got Brown killed, it started with him jaywalking and a cop confronting him about it. Paul takes Wilson’s statements as truth and does not concern himself with the fact that Wilson has motive to lie because unlike other times when he’s been in court, he’s not trying to put someone away, he’s trying to keep his own ass out of jail. Wilson said Brown hit him twice in the face with all his might, but doesn’t have the injuries to prove it and he would have injuries because Brown was a big dude. Furthermore, and I dont know where Paul is getting info from here, but the ME said there was “no gun residue” on Brown. But race comes into this because if there is one thing we all know, and i can provide study after study that shows this, black men are feared in this country and seen as threats no matter the situation. Even when they put their hands up. Even when they are staggering forward trying to stay on their feet because they’ve been shot. Even when they are children (see 12-year-old killed 2 sec after police show up in Ohio). So yeah, race is a factor, and as Paul said, he’s been on the other side of the law a few times and had time to fix his life. Glad about it and impressed with the job he’s done. But this was Browns first and last run in with the law because black men have a much smaller margin for error in this country because it fears them so much.

    Factual info on the Brown case here:

    1. I didn’t “blame the victim” by discussing the robbery. I even said so in the last sentence of the paragraph. “However, being a loser and robbing a store while assaulting the owner isn’t a reason to shoot him.” I talked about the robbery because it indicates why he attacked Wilson. He knew he was getting busted. The grand jury took Wilson’s testimony of what happened as fact. So until it’s proven otherwise it’ll remain fact. The two main facts I present in the article are backed up by evidence. But if I assume that Wilson lied about everything, then I only have opinion and speculation as to what happened. I didn’t want to write the article based on opinion and speculation. As I said, I wanted to stick to the basic facts to explain what happened. If I strayed from them then I didn’t think the article would hold up.

  2. There were two autopsies done on Michael Brown. One through St. Louis County and one through a Medical Examiner hired by the Brown family by Dr. Michael Baden. The St. Louis County autopsy revealed gun powder residue on the palm of Michael Brown’s hand. Initially Dr. Baden’s report stated there were no gun residue on the hand. However, when he testified in court, he stated that he agreed with the St. Louis ME report on everything but one issue which was the shot to the clavicle. I would take that as a yes, Michel Brown did have gun residue on his hand. This would suggest that Brown was charging towards Officer Wilson as he so testified. The grand jury, one that was already called to serve before the Brown shooting, examined all the evidence, listened to both sides and still said there was not enough evidence for an indictment. If you look at the witness records, they are all over the place. How do you determine who is telling the truth and who is lying? I believe in the judicial system in this country. I would agree with Brian that Officer Wilson did not know that Brown was a suspect in the robbery that had just occurred. But maybe Brown didn’t know that. Maybe he was scared because of what he had just done. Maybe the weed that was in his system made him somewhat paranoid. Maybe he reacted out of fear. As a mom, I always want to believe my children are good and would never do anything bad just like Michael Brown’s mother thinks of her son. I keep hearing her talk about how non-violent he was, what a kind person he was. I don’t know many non-violent kind people that steal and physically attack another person. My point being is that maybe he was aggressive towards Officer Wilson and the end result was him being shot.

  3. Once again a white man blames the victim because of his actions. Being a woman it reminds of the same thing that men and even some women have to say about rape victims. If she hadn’t been there getting drunk. If she hadn’t been dressed provocatively. If, if , if…Michael Brown’s companion, Dorian Johnson testified to the grand jury that Darren Wilson rode by them in his patrol SUV and shouted at them to “get the fuck out of the street”. Before they even had the opportunity to get onto the sidewalk he slammed on brakes and almost backed into them with his vehicle. He then attempted to exit the vehicle but Mike Brown’s body was in the way and his driver’s side door hit Brown and closed back. At this point the officer was mad because he thought he had heard the men say “something”. According to his testimony Wilson grabbed Brown from inside the SUV. Mike Brown tried to get away. I’ve asked people so many times at what point could Officer Wilson have just calmed down and done the right thing. He certainly never needed to leave his vehicle. Not over a case of jaywalking. Even if Mike Brown had been belligerent, so what? Certainly once Michael Brown had begun to run away Darren Wilson could have remained in his vehicle and called for backup. Instead he exited his vehicle and shot the boy 6 times. I do not believe a word of his testimony. It think Darren Wilson is a self righteous sociopath that belongs in jail. Months later during his interview with George Stephanopoulos he came off as a callous liar and not someone that I would be willing to trust with my dog let alone my personal safety. What kind of person does it take to speak so glibly about taking the life of another human being? Even if Mike Brown was caught in the middle of a violent crime and there was no ambiguity as to his dangerous nature what kind of person can look someone in the face and kill them without any remorse later for the loss of human life? Clearly we have handed to much power over to local law enforcement and also our federal government to intrude on our lives in some ill advised attempt to secure our “safety”. The police shouldn’t be allowed to kill people over petty crimes. They should not be able to treat us any way they please. This isn’t about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson anymore. It’s about public trust. It’s about constitutional rights. It’s about how much freedom from verbal and physical abuse we are willing to give up to secure our “safety”. Granted black and brown people bear the brunt of this session of rights but it isn’t like white people are completely immune from violent and invasive law enforcement tactics. Grandmothers tazed. So you can’t be sure about what lead up to the Brown shooting but we are certainly well aware of what happened afterward. Shoddy police procedures, militarized policing in the streets of Ferguson, journalists targeted for arrest, a prosecutor with a clear conflict of interest allowed jurisdiction over the case, a tainted grand jury….do I need to go on? I’m sorry Paul and co… need to stuff it. Give up the mantra. Anyone with 3 brain cells are tired of hearing.

    1. Dorian Johnson? Seriously?! Dorian Johnson lied from day one. He changed his story every interview. He was the one individual who saw the whole thing and could’ve stood up like a responsible person and told the world what happened. But instead he did what punk bitches do. He continued to lie when presented with evidence that contradicted everything he said.
      Also, if you’re going to try and debate someone, perhaps you should learn a couple points first. #1- Make sure the foundation of your argument can’t be destroyed in less than 5 seconds. #2-Don’t hurl insults (stuff it) at the person you’re trying to debate. It certainly doesn’t help the opposition see your side of the story any clearer. Plus it’s just plain childish and lacks class.

      1. I don’t see how you’ve destroyed anyone’s argument. You just think you have, you’re not seeing clearly anyway, just pretending to be objective. I’m sure you actually think you are. You continue to blame the victim when it was never necessary for this incident to end in deadly violence. Darren Wilson is clearly a lying sociopathic bigot and everyone should be thankful he’s no longer got a license to kill with impunity. You and others like you are our biggest problem refusing to see that your “benign” racism is what keeps institutionalized discrimination alive.

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