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Mike Brown: does his character matter?

Who knows when or how it will end? We have been dealing with the Mike Brown situation in Ferguson, Missouri for almost a week now. Last night troubles flared anew when the store where the young man allegedly had stolen cigars earlier in the day when he was later shot by a police officer, was looted. We now see two potentially criminal acts skewed through a mob mentality.

It is important that we harbor no doubts about certain things surrounding the incident, the first of which is that the looters don't care about Mike Brown or justice. They're simply thugs taking advantage of a situation for their own ill gotten gains. They're using the genuine pain and anguish of the principals involved to get free stuff at little risk; the police officers on scene last night backed away from actually stopping the theft from the Ferguson Market and Liquor Store in an attempt to ease tension. But in the long run, those who began the robbery ought to be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law.

Yet other issues remain. Why must we say that Brown allegedly stole cigars while the Brown family attorney repeatedly refers to the 'execution' of the Mike Brown? So far, we don't know the extent to which the young man may or may not have brought things onto himself. Even if the officer involved was overzealous, irresponsible, and indeed guilty of a criminal act, the police assert there is evidence that Mike Brown did something which set things in motion. We are each often responsible, to varying degrees, to the things which happen to us, even if in the end we were still treated badly. Would Rodney King have been beaten if he hadn't been speeding through LA? If Brown wrongly or stupidly instigated the incident which lead to his death, even if the officer is guilty of something as grisly and reprehensible as murder, then he would not be a complete innocent.

Does character matter? The Brown family attorney, Daryl Parks, objects to the police releasing the video which purports to show him stealing the stogies. He says that doesn't matter with regard to the killing. In the strictest sense, he's correct. If an actual murder or other criminal act was committed then whatever Mr. Brown did earlier in the day and what type of man he was doesn't matter. Directly. Yet indirectly it might: if Brown was the type to incite others, if he wasn't the fine young man we're supposed to blindly accept that he was, then at the least the current troubles are somewhat on him.

Daryl Parks would say we are demonizing Mike Brown. Yet isn't he demonizing the Ferguson Police by throwing around words such as execution? That doesn't sound like a man truly interested in justice and calm any more than the mob who trashed the liquor store last night supposedly had been.

The right response to the Mike Brown shooting is holding emotions in check and gathering the facts, objectively following where they may lead and acting accordingly. In Ferguson, that apparently is easier to do with a hot shot attorney and a free bottle of Jack Daniels.

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