Christine Byers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been acknowledged as being one of the more competent and even-keeled mainstream media reporters covering events in Ferguson, Missouri.
She has a certain “home field advantage” being a local reporter, but that hometown connection means that she also has the added stress of needing to make sure that what she reports is as accurate as possible… unlike some others. After all the out-of-town journalists leave, Byers’s reputation, credibility, and future access to parties on all sides of this crisis will hinge on whether or not she did her utmost best to be as accurate as balanced as the dynamic situation allows.
It is because of this that her statement that officers have “more than a dozen witnesses” corroborating the claim that a fleeing Michael Brown stopped, turned, and then charged at Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson has so much impact.
Wilson was reportedly attacked by Brown inside his vehicle. Wilson—who we now know suffered a fractured eye socket as the result of Brown’s preliminary attack—fired multiple shots at Brown as the 6’4″, nearly 300-pound man thundered down upon him for a second time.
Two pathologists—one for the state, the other hired by Brown’s family—report in preliminary autopsy results that Brown was struck 6-8 times.
There seems to be some confusion over the number of bullets striking Brown due to there being multiple entrance, exit, and reentry wounds. Just three bullets were recovered from Brown’s body, all fired from the front. There were no exit wounds in Brown’s back. Some bullets may have entered and exited his right arm to continue downrange, but at this point, we’re all waiting on the final autopsy results. At this point, it appears that the only fatal shot was one to the top of Brown’s head, where the bullet entered his skull and performed as designed. All other shots, including a shot to his right eye that ricocheted from the bone at the top of his eye socket down through his jaw to embed in his collarbone, would have been survivable.
I suspect that there aren’t many witnesses to the beginning of the confrontation that resulted in shots being fired inside Wilson’s police vehicle, but it seems clear that the shot captured the attention of residents in the area, more than a dozen of whom apparently told police that they witnessed Michael Brown attempt to charge Wilson once both men had moved away from the vehicle a number of yards down the street.
In any incident that results in a police officer firing a weapon at a person who is unarmed, we have to demand that the shooting investigation be taken very seriously. Only in extraordinary circumstances should officers be able to justify firing shots at an unarmed citizen.
It is possible, and perhaps even probable, that this is one of those extraordinary but justifiable situations.
Michael Brown, a man roughly the size of an NFL lineman, had just committed a strong-arm robbery in which he had doubled back to assault a shopkeeper. He then apparently attacked Officer Darren Wilson in Wilson’s vehicle savagely enough to have fractured Wilson’s eye socket. At the time of the attack, Wilson did not know that Brown was a robbery suspect, but Brown most certainly did.
Brown allegedly then began to flee, stopped when a battled Wilson yelled for him to “freeze,” and then doubled back to charge a police officer who had his weapon drawn, in front of what appears to be a significant number of eyewitnesses.
This was dangerous and reckless beyond belief. What, exactly, did he expect to happen? Did this giant of a man look at the battered officer, and think, “I can take this guy?”
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