Analysis of Michael Brown shooting witnesses: 16 out of 18 say hands up when shot


1 Like

Guilt or innocence is not determined by ballot.


It says “Did MB put hands up when fired upon?” Which seems to mean did he put them up after being fired upon. The other questions about what he was doing when fired upon phrase it “Was MB [kneeling|charging|etc] when fired upon?”

The question that bugs me is “Did MB reach into or otherwise directly interacted [sic] with the police car? Bending over to talk to a driver is very different than reaching in his window and punching him, but they’re not differentiated here.

All of this is really beside the point though. It wasn’t these details that drove the decision, it was the prosecutor’s obvious indifference.


Guilt or innocence is also not determined by a jury if the case never comes to trial.


Correct, guilt or innocence should be established by trial. But there will be no trial, because St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch abused the grand jury process instead of doing the job he was appointed to do. When was the last time you heard of a prosecutor feeding possible exonerating evidence to a grand jury?


They are, instead, largely determined by the color of the dead man’s skin.


We need cameras on every uniformed police officer running all the time. The results in Rialto, CA – a city that had been in some serious need of help in this regard – really are stunning:

“But Rialto’s randomised controlled study has seized attention because it offers scientific – and encouraging – findings: after cameras were introduced in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60%.”

It’d be good for the police. It’d be good for people dealing with the police. And it would be good for the rest of the public when this sorts of things inevitably happen.


I don’t think “hands up” necessarily means surrendering in all those cases. At least a couple of witnesses who said he had his arms up indicated it looked like he was doing so to check his body for gunshot wounds.


Weak. Even if he hadn’t been surrendering then having his hands up and visible meant that he clearly wasn’t armed.


Sure, it’s fair that it bugs you, but almost every witness answered affirmatively, so he probably did at least lean on or lean into the car window. It just seems to be pretty bad judgement in a heated situation like this to even approach the car.

I don’t want to sound like I’m justifying the shooting, that was horribly wrong too. It seems both the officer and Brown were pushing each other’s buttons.

This is going to sound off topic, but one time I had to spend a Saturday sitting in traffic school all day to erase the points from a dumb speeding ticket… uggh. However, there was one thing the instructor said from that painfully dull 8 hours that has stuck with me the rest of my life: nobody intentionally wants an accident to happen, most accidents are caused because of a chain of events that leads up to the final result. If you can break the chain anywhere along the path, the outcome will be different, and likely the accident won’t occur.

In the Brown case, there was a long chain of events, lots of them stupid for sure, and there were many opportunities to prevent what happened. Leaning into a police car window was one of them.

1 Like

Unless the police officer stopped the car and asked you a question and you leaned down to answer it, which is exactly the problem that @L_Mariachi is highlighting. There is nothing stupid at all about leaning down to talk to someone who is talking to you from their car window.

Assuming that it is part of a long chain of events that led to an unfortunately ending is actually stretching to interpret any questionable event in the way that makes sense of the actions of the living police officer and that makes nonsense of the actions of the dead young black man. Good thing for Wilson that Brown is not here to tell his side of the story.


Sorry, you’re right, leaning in a window shouldn’t be an issue.

I still see a “chain” though. My understanding (from the confusing media coverage, so maybe I’m mistaken) is that just prior to this, Wilson drove away down the street several yards, slammed on the breaks, sped backwards, and opened his window to engage Brown. That was part of the chain too, he could have driven off. I think that was really bad judgement on Wilson.

I think the point of the “chain” metaphor is that there were several points where if better decisions were made, this wouldn’t have happened.

1 Like

Yes. This is the conversation we need to be having: how do we reign in all trigger-happy cops, regardless of the source of their animus? Accountability is key, and for that we need a complete and accurate record of every interaction between the public and law enforcement.


There is a complex chain of events that leads to absolutely everything that happens in everyone’s life, and lots of opportunities for those things to not happen. Still, if I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shot in an armed robbery today when I stopped to get a coffee somewhere, we wouldn’t look back at how if I hadn’t forgotten my wallet at home (my bad judgement) I wouldn’t have been in that place at that time and I wouldn’t have gotten shot. We wouldn’t search back through everything I did to figure out how I contributed to ending up dead. It doesn’t add anything to the narrative.

That’s the real question, what does talking about this “chain” add to the discussion? It comes across as an attempt to exonerate Wilson by talking about how Brown contributed to his own death. The reason it comes across that way is because it serves no other purpose. Maybe if brown hadn’t stolen those cigars he wouldn’t be dead, but in another time, in another place in the US, there is a black man who would be dead if he hadn’t stopped to steal something because he would run into a cop who would have killed him.

Every young black man living in the US knows that more days than not one of his fellow young black men is killed by a police officer. None of them knows when it’s his day. Imagine buying that lottery ticket every morning.

That chain of events you are talking about started when Michael Brown was born black. A link in the chain is that every cops knows he can get away with killing a black man.


Mandatory body cameras for the police are the first, long-overdue step, although there are issues that need to be resolved. We’re increasingly seeing incidents where the cops have cameras, but they are conveniently turned off or “not working” - e.g. the recent questionable shooting of the black cosplayer apparently involved both a body camera and mic (on separate cops), but both were off at the time…
(My solution is that cops don’t get paid for - or get comp’ed for injuries sustained during - periods of time when the cameras are turned off. That would be a powerful motivator to make sure the camera was on and working.)


But which witnesses were discredited by the supposedly “fair and impartial” presentation of evidence to the grand jury, and which witnesses’ testimony was made to seem stronger by leaving it unchallenged was a decision made by ONE man.

One man, who turned the usual practice of presenting to a grand jury seeking an indictment into a dry run for Darren Wilson’s defense attorneys.

If an indictment had been returned, the defense could have used the record of the grand jury proceedings as a pre-printed playbook.

How often does that happen?

That’s a rhetorical question.

It happens when the DA doesn’t want an indictment, and all too often, that’s because the person facing indictment is a cop.


Or, if shit goes down and your and your partner’s camera is “off”, the DA throws you under the bus.

1 Like

There are lots of things that will make deploying cameras imperfect, but I’d rather have that fight than this one. A video of this incident would almost certainly tell us who had it right, but – more importantly – I think it would have served to de-escalate it altogether.


That requires a DA willing to do so in the first place, which is definitely not a given.

Yeah, but that does require that people know that the cameras aren’t being turned off to suit the police. If they’re seen as just another mechanism that’s ostensibly there to prevent police misconduct but isn’t actually in use, they won’t have much of a de-escalating effect. But yeah, definitely getting the cameras out there is the first priority.

1 Like

That’s true for you as a victim in your example. But breaking down a complex chain of events into its component parts and analysing what contributed to an undesired outcome and then planning how to avoid those situations coinciding or occuring again is part of proper critical incident analysis. It would be a shame if the techniques involved were unfairly tarred as victim blaming.

If we do break down the timeline of your hypothetical robbery and find that the only things that could be changed to avoid your shooting are you remembering your wallet and thereby not being in a shootout at all, then highlighting that we should all remember our wallets at all times would be pointless because the same action could have a different outcome in different circumstances. The only interesting part of that situation would be working out why there was a shootout at all.

In Michael Browns case, what really happened at the police car window is crucial to the chain of events which lead to his death. Which we can all agree was an undesired outcome. And changing the way people (both police and civilians) interact at a police cruiser window might actually save lives in the US environment, where the police (all too easily, IMO) have immediate access to deadly force …

But far more interesting here is that the powers-that-be in the US don’t seem to be particularly interested in doing anything about the (spectacularly high) national rates of firearm deaths and injuries across all races, or in looking at the apparently extreme levels of police violence and corruption there in comparison to other comparable nations. Nor do they appear to consider the disparity in harm that thereby befalls black people as compared to white as being an undesired outcome worthy of investigation. Now that’s seriously disturbing.

If there is to be anything done about this, then picking a selection of police shootings and treating them in the same way Sentinel Events are in healthcare and aviation —by breaking them down and analysing them step by step— is part of the eventual solution to the problem, not part of the problem itself.