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The Dangers of Presenting Michael Brown as a Good Kid When He Wasn't

Michael Brown
Michael Brown
NY Daily News

There are three sides to every story - theirs, yours, and the truth.

Ferguson County Police: Michael Brown was a menacing thug, reckless enough to assault an officer and attempt to steal his gun. - That's absurd.

Family & Friends: Michael Brown was a good kid, a peaceful person, who never liked confrontation. - That's naive.

The Truth: Michael Brown was a 18 year old man, towering at 6'4" and weighing 292 pounds. He did not have a criminal record, however, minutes before he was killed, he allegedly robbed a local convenience store and assaulted a much smaller employee. He stole Swisher Sweet cigars popularly used for smoking marijuana. He recently graduated high school, but not in the traditional four years but needed an extra summer to complete his work. It is said that he was heading to Vatterot College within days the shooting. Yet, the university, in a very carefully worded statement, would not confirm nor deny his enrollment. He was not a role model kid, no matter how many times his family and supporters state that he was. Still, he was well liked in his community and deeply loved by many.

There is great danger in putting Michael Brown's life and character on such a high pedestal. Just because he wasn't a "good kid" doesn't make him a bad kid and a menace to society. Yet, every time that we learn information contrary to the "good boy" image, the focus shifts from the killing of an unarmed young man to his faults and indiscretions. I predict that over the next few weeks we will learn many more facts about Brown that don't coincide with the "good boy" story.

Case in Point: The video released last week showing a young man, who strongly resembles Brown, committing a robbery, flew in the face of all those touting Brown as a good, gentle giant. Instantly, the credibility of Brown's family was in question, and many began to ponder whether in fact, the police version of events, that Brown reached into Officer Darren Wilson's police car and attempted to take his weapon, could be true. Someone in the Brown camp should have stated from the outset, "Michael Brown was a young man who made foolish choices like many teenagers, but he was not a delinquent who would assault a police officer and try to steal his weapon."

Brown's character will play a huge part should Officer Wilson face a trial for murder or manslaughter. Character assassination is a purposeful and effective tool used by either, and sometimes, both sides in many trials. The strategy very succinctly: the more heinous a person Michael Brown was, the more likely that he assaulted the officer and attempted to take his gun. Therefore, the defense will argue, Wilson had the legal right to use deadly force. Understanding this reality, the truth about Brown should be shared by his team and thus take the sting and "shock value" away from those who want to shift the focus from Wilson's actions.

In an ideal world (in which we do not live), Brown's character should have little to do with the crust of the matter. The sole point of contention is whether Officer Wilson had a legal right to use deadly force, thus shooting and killing Brown. There are many facts in reasonable dispute like: Was Brown and his friend blocking traffic? Were Brown's hands in the police car or outside of the police car on the door? Did Officer Wilson grab Brown by the neck? Did Brown assault Wilson by pushing him back inside his police vehicle? Did Brown tussle with Wilson over the gun? Did the gun first go off inside the police car? Was Brown running from the officer? Was Brown shot in the back? Was Brown shot repeatedly after he turned to face Officer Wilson? Did Brown have his hands in the air? Did Officer Wilson sustain injuries caused by Brown?

Forensics will provide definitive answers to many of these questions and thus, supporting the claims of the Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, or it will show that the police department's assertions are false. It is important to note: the public, nor the media, have been given access to Officer Wilson's statement of facts. Therefore, should forensics not support the facts repeatedly stated by the Police Chief, Wilson's team will undoubtedly provide a scenario that will mesh with the forensic findings.

After taking a week to ingest and digest all of the information surrounding this shooting, and giving Officer Wilson the benefit of every doubt, it appears that Wilson used excessive force in shooting and killing Brown. In fact, the most compelling eyewitness testimony comes in the form of a live-tweet detailing the shooting as it took place, a picture of Michael Brown dead on the concrete, and the aftermath. From all that I have read, watched and listened to, the killing of Brown appears unnecessary and criminal.

It is true that in the entire state of Missouri, police officers may use deadly force if the officer's life is in jeopardy or the life of someone else is. However, the Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), held under the Fourth Amendment,

When a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may use deadly force to prevent escape only if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
There seems to be no eyewitness testimony, nor statements from police representatives to suggest that Brown posed a "significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others" as he was fleeing.

Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, justice for Brown is possible. Therefore, the strength of Michael Brown's character is not needed to bolster the case against Officer Darren Wilson. The witness testimonies, ballistics and forensics are all that's needed.

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