Opinion Columns & Blogs

Understanding Ferguson

Of course Darren Wilson is innocent. As he said, he did his job and acted accordingly. He feared for his life. In 1991, Rodney King was severely beaten by four officers with 20 others standing by and watching. Three officers stated that they feared for their lives. Rodney King was a very large man and when they punched, kicked and whaled on him with their batons, it appeared to them that it had no effect. After all, he could be the “Incredible Hulk” who when angered could take out 24 policemen with guns.

In 2009 BART transit officer Johannes Meserle shot Oscar Grant in the back while his 250-pound partner, officer Tony Pirone, had his knee on Grant’s neck pinning him face down on the ground. While Meserle, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, was attempting to handcuff the immobilized Grant, he too feared for his life. Meserle saw Grant, with hands behind his back, making a digging motion which he imagined was an attempt to reach for a gun. Clearly the officers were at risk when Grant was lying face down with two 250-pound officers on top of him. Meserle couldn’t have just grabbed and twisted Grant’s arm.

In 2012 neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, even when told not to engage, ignored the 911 dispatcher and followed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman shot and killed the skittles-toting 17-year-old in Florida. There have been an abundance of conflicting testimony but we know, according to Zimmerman, he feared for his life ... so much so that he initiated a confrontation with the bigger six-foot tall teenager. It was not an option to let the proper authorities handle this or observe Trayvon from a distance till the authorities arrived.

In July 2014, officer Panteleo placed a lethal chokehold on Eric Garner accused of committing the terrible crime of selling loosies (individual cigarettes). This video ( http://tinyurl.com/lpzahte) leaves no doubt of the officer’s innocence.

Also in July, a black woman was walking barefoot along the L.A. freeway. When she ignored the CHP officer’s reprimand, she was grabbed, thrown to the ground and viciously beaten. This video reveals the officer was justified (http://tinyurl.com/lfzymcp). Copy and paste this link onto your web address bar to view.

On Nov. 22, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was waving a pellet gun resembling an automatic weapon at a Cleveland recreation park. 911 was alerted by a caller adding the gun was probably fake. The video showed what looked like Tamir re-enacting what he has seen in movies or TV. A shocking video ( http://tinyurl.com/km2lfpt) shows a squad car coming to a speedy stop four meters from Tamir and within two seconds Tamir was shot dead. In this instance, I’m sure police also feared for their lives and it was necessary to shoot and kill immediately rather than position themselves at a safer distance (let’s say 150 feet instead of 10 feet), assess the threat, and talk Tamir into surrendering the pellet gun. Even at that distance, I’m sure the 12-year-old posed a serious threat to the safety of two trained policemen with real guns.

These events corroborates why Darren Wilson’s fear for his life is so credible. Wilson testified “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” Wilson is 6-foot, 210 pounds - Brown is 6-foot-4, 290 pounds. It’s obvious that Brown could have thrown Wilson around like a rag doll.

Wilson thought, “What do I do not to get beaten inside my car?” When Brown ran away, Wilson did what anyone fearing for his life would do, chase down the very thing he feared most without backup.

Most witnesses said Brown raised his hands when he turned to surrender to Wilson. Wilson said Brown was reaching into his waistband, presumably for a gun, and charged like a demonic bull when Wilson opened fire, hitting him six times, once in the eye and once on the top of his head. Yes that would also be my first reaction if I was in Brown’s predicament - stop, turn around, reach for a gun, and charge at an expert on weapons with a gun already pointed at me 20 feet away. What’s not to believe?

So this is what post-racial America looks like.