Police shoot unarmed black man-will this ever end?

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri occurred just days before I arrived in St. Louis for my daughter's scheduled hip surgery last week. I thought: Damn, another innocent, unarmed young black male teen shot to death by police. Then we started to find out that Brown, 18, might not have been so squeaky clean as an individual. 

He did steal a box of cigars from a local convenient store that afternoon, Aug. 9, just prior to the shooting. For that, he should have been arrested, tried and, if found guilty, convicted and sentenced to prison time accordingly. 

"Shoot on sight," however, is neither justice nor an appropriate solution. 

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson first said the two incidents were not related — that the accused shooter, Off. Darren Wilson, did not exact some old-fashioned street justice against Brown for breaking the law. 

Then the police department — under Jackson's contradictory and confusing order — released the store's video security footage, allegedly showing Brown committing the robbery, including physically assaulting the store's owner who tried to stop him. 

You don't need to be a lawyer to see what Jackson's trying to do: laying the groundwork for justifying the shooting. And that includes the department now saying that Wilson might have seen the box of cigars on "Brown's person."

Along with the tear-gassing of peaceful protestors, Ferguson's starting to look like something out of mid-20th century America, with blacks terrorized by the KKK and white supremacists in both the South and North. 

I'll let others make the comparison between Chief Jackson and Eugene "Bull" Connor, the cold-blooded, racist police commissioner in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks were routinely harassed, hunted and killed by police back then.

Today, that's not true for all police and every department. There are good cops here in Missouri and elsewhere. But there remain those who probably should be in a different line of work. 

According to various witnesses in the Brown shooting, his hands were raised before he was shot. Newly-released autopsy photos confirm he was shot several times in the face and elsewhere from the front. No weapons belonging to Brown were found on him. He was originally stopped for jaywalking with his buddy in the street. 

But the crime of "Driving (or in this case walking) While Black" is just something black folks made up, right?

If Brown attacked the police, which is what the Ferguson Police Department says happened, then any cop has a right to defend himself, including using force, even if that force is lethal. But that just doesn't appear to be the case here. You don't shoot and kill the person who just whipped your butt in a fist fight. Just lick your wounds and move on. 

If Brown did, as the police say, wrestle with Officer Wilson and somehow ended up inside the squad car and then somehow back out on the street, if he then surrenders, cops just can't shoot him down in cold blood. If they can in this incident, then they can in almost any incident involving a "potential threat."

Regardless of what kind of person Michael Brown was, we can add him to the long list of unarmed black men and boys killed by police over the last decade or so, most of whom committed no crime whatsoever.  

Damn, when will this madness ever end?

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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