Ferguson, Missouri, update

by Eric on August 17, 2014


Yesterday evening, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, including a curfew, for Ferguson.

On Friday, Ferguson police had released the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown. They did not release details of the shooting, but did release a report indicating Brown was a suspect in a strong-arm robbery, including photographs and video showing someone resembling Brown in a physical altercation with a convenience-store clerk.

Last night there were arrests of people violating the curfew.

This morning, on Meet the Press with Andrea Mitchell, Nixon criticized the police report.

Yeah, we and our security team and the highway patrol did not know that was going to be released. I don’t think the attorney general knew that. And quite frankly, we disagree deeply I think for two reasons. Number one, to attempt to in essence disparage the character of this victim, in the middle of a process like this is not right. It’s just not right. And secondarily, it did put the community and quite frankly the region and the nation on alert again. These are old wounds. These are deep wounds in these communities. And that action was not helpful.

Meet the Press included a report beginning with the note, “Prison sentences for black men are 20% longer than those for whites convicted of the same crime. And on average, 100 black people are killed each year by white police officers.”

Also today, US Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to conduct a further autopsy of Michael Brown’s body.

Eyewitness accounts of the shooting have begun to emerge.



Andrew F. 08.17.14 at 8:27 pm

Last night there were arrests of people violating the curfew.

Here’s an excerpt from Reuters:

As the curfew took effect on Saturday night, law enforcement officials used loudspeakers to tell protesters to disperse. Officers, equipped with gas masks and full-length shields, stood among and on top of armored vehicles.

The person shot at a restaurant during the night was in critical condition, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said. Police were unable to identify the victim, who he said was not shot by police.

Johnson, entrusted with restoring order by the governor, said canisters of smoke and later teargas were fired as part of police attempts to reach the victim of the shooting, “and not in relation to the curfew.” The wounded person was taken to hospital by bystanders before police could reach him.

Johnson also said someone had shot at a passing police car but was not apprehended.


Gareth Wilson 08.17.14 at 8:45 pm

How many black people are killed by black police officers?


Abbe Faria 08.17.14 at 9:17 pm

This isn’t being widely reported, what with everyone going for the tone of Bonfire of the Vanities 2014, however there was another shooting by police earlier in the protests.




Ronan(rf) 08.17.14 at 9:20 pm


dmnolan 08.17.14 at 9:52 pm

Why are we still calling them “rubber” bullets? They’re rubber-coated metal bullets, quite capable of inflicting serious injury or death. Nothing benign or “bouncy” about them.


Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 11:38 pm

Actually, I think they were earplugs. ;)


Patrick C 08.18.14 at 6:31 pm


Lyle 08.18.14 at 9:21 pm


Who cares? Or, more politely, why do you ask?


Peter T 08.19.14 at 3:34 am

I await Brett and Andrew’s grave explanation of why World War I was all Belgium’s fault.

Apparently the rule here is: “Once is happenstance, twice is unproven, two hundred times a year is just a lot of unproven happenstance….”


Gareth Wilson 08.19.14 at 5:42 am

Presumably black police officers don’t have any racial prejudice against black people. So how many black people they kill could be informative.


J Thomas 08.19.14 at 8:53 am


Presumably black police officers don’t have any racial prejudice against black people. So how many black people they kill could be informative.


That data is unavailable. There is no reliable data about how many people the police have killed, much less how many of the police who did it were black.

If we did have the data, it might give some idea how many police killings were due to the attitudes of individual policemen, but not about racism (or wealthism) that might be implicit in the orders they are given.

How many US soldiers are neocons? It doesn’t matter provided they follow their orders.


milk 08.19.14 at 12:50 pm

White officers might be more or less likely to use deadly force against black people than black officers, but the problem is the relation between black communities and police, and underlying that is a culture that at every turn construes black people and especially black men as inherently threatening and irrational. It would not surprise me at all if black police officers showed the same cognitive biases as white officers in this respect. I think having racial diversity in the police force can improve the relationship with the community, but all police need to be more aware of how they construe risks and how that affects the communities they work in.


geordie lurker 08.19.14 at 1:56 pm

The very first comment I read on anything on the internet following the shooting of Michal Brown said “he was six foot four” – as though the very fact of being six foot four at age 18 (and black) made it reasonable to shoot first and ask questions after. Which resonated with me as my brother was six foot at age 12 and six foot six well before 18, white admittedly but couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding (to use the vernacular). It’s so sad …


Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 4:19 pm

But there’s a problem on the community end of it, too.

Ferguson is majority black, why is their local government white? ‘Cause they’re not bothering to vote.

Why did they riot? What did that store owner do to deserve looting? Get robbed?

Seriously, let’s not pretend the entire problem in Ferguson is on the cops’ side of things. What’s going down there is not the product of reasonable people on either end.


Lyle 08.19.14 at 5:54 pm

“Ferguson is majority black, why is their local government white? ‘Cause they’re not bothering to vote. . . Seriously, let’s not pretend the entire problem in Ferguson is on the cops’ side of things. What’s going down there is not the product of reasonable people on either end.”

So the black people in Ferguson are not “reasonable” because a larger percentage of them don’t vote? Well gee, why do you suppose THAT is?

Sheesh, you seem to think they should somehow suddenly start thinking and acting like middle-class suburban white people.


Bruce Wilder 08.19.14 at 6:07 pm

We do not get excited about authoritarianism, until race is a dominant part of the context.

A police officer shoots and kills an unarmed man. That’s certainly a tragedy, and probably a crime, but it is a crime, which is almost never prosecuted. We allow police a latitude for violence and intimidation, reinforced on a thousand cop shows, in which civil liberties are portrayed as a cynical game of meaningless rules that just get in the way of good policework.

Stand your ground is terrible law, encouraging fatal encounters and making prosecution of otherwise criminal homicide more difficult. But, we do not get excited about it, until a man kills a black teenager, and then we worry over racial disparities in the statistics.

Stop-and-frisk policies make for terrible policing, and are facially unconstitutional violations of the fourth amendment, but a successful lawsuit requires proof of racial profiling.

Race is the last backstop for our sense of solidarity with the victims of authoritarianism.

I’m sure Ferguson’s community has its problems. And, having a majority white electorate in a majority black population may be among them. Poor people do not, generally, understand politics or participate in politics wisely.

The drama in Ferguson, though, is bringing attention to a lot of other problems with the rampant authoritarianism in our formerly democratic plutocracy. Militarization of the police is one of them.

I’ve seen articles that note the financial dependence of St. Louis area municipalities on fines, which leads to what looks like using the police to raise revenue from frequent traffic stops and tickets. And, which, in the case of Ferguson, leads to racially disproportionate stops of African-Americans. And, of course, stories like that of the motorist, who was stopped and taken in custody on a warrant in a case of mistaken identity and was thoroughly mistreated by the police, with, of course, no legal recourse in the courts to date.

It’s increasingly “us against them” in American society, as the plutocrats take everything — jobs, homes, pensions, education — and use the police and increasingly oppressive laws to keep us all powerless and in place. We, just, don’t have the markers to help us feel the “us”, the latent potential for organizing against our individual victimization.

People look on events in Ferguson, and I expect many are not sure if they should identify vicariously with the African-Americans or the (white) police. Race is one of the last refuges for a feeling of an oppressed “us”. Yet, many, many people have the near daily experience of being oppressed, of being disrespected, of an unresponsive government run by and for much richer, unidentified people.

It is the last context in which many of the “wrongs” done routinely to people across the country all the time are acknowledged to be “wrong” by a significant fraction of the elite, acknowledged as a policy that ought to be reformed, a policy that violates the core values embodied in the social contract.

The acknowledgement is done in a way that I find scary — as if, say, Stand Your Ground, for example, would be A-OK if it were “fair”(!!) in racial terms.

Implicitly, though, I wonder if there’s also a message going out through American society, to the effect that we of the 99% are all black now.


A H 08.19.14 at 7:31 pm

Contra the Washington post article, it is actully not clear that Brown stole any cigars. I havn’t seen this gain much traction, but in this video he appears to pay for them, but then gets into an arument with the clerk. There are people slowly strolling around while the incident is taking place, so the charecterization of it as a violent “strong-armed” robbery is certainly unwarrented.

It’s also not clear when the police learned about this incident, since no one from the store called it in. Though, Darren Wilson did not know about it, and therefore did not vier Brown as a robbery suspect when he shot him.



Gareth Wilson 08.19.14 at 8:32 pm

J Thomas: the original post said that 100 black people are killed a year by white police officers, so reliable data on the race of police officers who kill black people must be available.


Layman 08.19.14 at 8:34 pm

It appears there is no national effort to compile data on shootings by police officers, and therefor no reliable or rich data on the subject.


Gareth Wilson 08.19.14 at 9:10 pm

So where did the claim in the original post come from?


Layman 08.19.14 at 9:28 pm

Use the google.


Happy Jack 08.19.14 at 11:40 pm

So where did the claim in the original post come from?

Meet the Press. Which appears to rely on the story linked up at @7.


Suzanne 08.20.14 at 12:31 am

@17: Dorian Johnson’s attorney has confirmed that it was Brown who stole the cigarillos and shoved the clerk around. I have seen no serious reports disputing that it was Brown. Brown’s partisans have dropped all references to “anti-violent” and certain other positive adjectives describing the sterling character of the deceased, and refer delicately to “shoplifting.”

And no, I don’t think the video matters in terms of how we should regard the tragedy, and possible crime, of Brown’s death, although it may prove to be of some assistance to Officer Wilson’s defense attorney, should things get that far– as they likely will. I fear it has also led some of the usual suspects to start clutching their pearls about “thuggery” and to blow up the nasty but trivial incident into the Brink’s robbery.


Brett Bellmore 08.20.14 at 9:48 am

And, more information comes out.

Officer Wilson’s fractured eye-socket.

Wonder how that happened?


Jasmine O 08.20.14 at 12:19 pm

Personally, I don’t care if Mike Brown stole every cigar in the shop. He was an unarmed teenager, some distance away from the policeman who shot him (no powder burns on his body). Ill-trained town cops acting as judge, jury and executioner is not a recipe for orderly civil society. As tragic as it is, I am glad that this situation has focused attention on the increasing militarization of US police forces–something that was loudly ignored when the same overkill was applied to Occupy protesters.


J Thomas 08.20.14 at 12:34 pm


He was an unarmed teenager, some distance away from the policeman who shot him (no powder burns on his body). Ill-trained town cops acting as judge, jury and executioner is not a recipe for orderly civil society.

I guess this is a side issue, but maybe we need police to have some better alternatives.

Imagine a suspect is running away from a cop. He shouldn’t do that, but he does. If he’s innocent he shouldn’t run away, but still he might be innocent of all crimes. The policeman has the choice of try to chase him, which is decidedly strenuous and might likely fail. Too far for a taser. My own instinctive reaction when I see something getting away is to stop it.

There ought to be some other technological approach. I like the idea of tagging him with a dye that won’t come off easily, so you can recognize him easier later. Bu I don’t know of any such dyes which are not dangerous if they get on an eyeball or something.

Tag him with a little RFID or transponder, and you don’t have to chase him down as fast, except he might find it and tag sombody else with it or something.

If we could give police new technology that gives them better choices to deal with suspects who might get away, they would have less temptation to shoot people. But they would also be more powerful.

If I was sure we could trust our legal system I would know that was a good trade-off. Less violence by police, more delivery by police of suspects to the legal system which will sort out the guilty.


john in california 08.20.14 at 5:22 pm

SIX times, folks – SIX times! Anybody who has ever been shot or shot at knows once is enough to get your attention. Since when is there any excuse to shoot a jaywalker! As far as the cop knew, that is what Michael Brown was. But it has become commonplace for cops to shoot people who could easily be restrained in some other way – or just let’em go !
The homeless and the schizophrenics seem to be favorite targets, especially if they are naked and ‘blandishing’ a knife.
Training won’t answer the problem of the kind of people who are attracted to this job. Take away all the firepower and the impunity that goes with it and you would have a different police force with a different mentality. These things don’t happen in Sweden, Denmark, Norway or even England. In this country bad people are attracted to police work and all the guns and the authority it gives them are a big part of it.


Svensker 08.21.14 at 12:32 pm

You know that fractured eye socket visual is completely fake, right?


Limericky Dicky 08.21.14 at 1:02 pm

Bad, bad, bad, bad Michael Brown: cigar-thief from Ferguson Town.
It’s in no way tenuous to argue: it’s strenuous to chase him, so just just gun him down.


Ogden Wernstrom 08.21.14 at 3:53 pm

Svensker 08.21.14 at 12:32 pm:

You know that fractured eye socket visual is completely fake, right?

It’s a lie that those who frequent thegatewaypundit.com want to hear – need to hear in order to prop up their fantasies and fears. When I search for the story, it appears on lots of the Reactionary Right’s echo-chamber websites – some with add-on exaggerations.

I did not even look at the offered link. This was yet another detail that the Ferguson P.D. would have used to help their case – so the fact that the P.D. did not release the information – plus its appearance on that epistemic-closure website – made me doubt it. Lazy as I am, I let others debunk it while I slept. This morning, the debunking has been done.

I love the smell of desperation in the morning.


Suzanne 08.21.14 at 11:37 pm

@30: I expect the Gateway Pundit’s sources were the same reliable parties who told Larry Johnson about Michelle Obama’s “whitey tape.”


Harold 08.22.14 at 12:32 am

When I first moved into my neighborhood, I went to a community meeting at the police station, where it was explained how and when policemen shoot a perpetrator. It was explained that the police always shoot to kill, never to maim, because a crazed perpetrator coming at you is juiced up on adrenalin and will still keep coming at one after being shot (so they said). It seemed plausible at the time. There are no shades of gray — it is an either or situation in which you have a split second to react. That was the spiel, and I assume that is how the police are trained. We were then shown a film of a crazed perpetrator coming at the audience — one of whom had been given a blank pistol and told he (or she) had to decide in a split second whether to shoot or not. Of course, during the film, a shot rang out. It was very exciting and dramatic.

On the other hand, a friend who was an MP said that they were trained to hit drunken soldiers on the ankles with their batons, should they happen to start a riot in a bar. Soldiers’ lives are too valuable to be wasted during a bar fight. They need to be saved for the battlefield.


Harold 08.22.14 at 5:32 am

addendum LTE from today’s NYT:

To the Editor:

Police training must be changed from “shoot to kill” to protect police officers to “shoot or act to disable or stop” unless the officer is in clear mortal danger. Sometimes this will mean retreating or using nonlethal force.

Police training overwhelmingly emphasizes officer protection to the point of discouraging “shoot to wound” and allowing or even requiring use of hollow point bullets, formerly outlawed as too destructive of human tissue.

Otherwise, police officers when scared or excited will continue to empty their guns against suspects, unnecessarily killing hundreds where less than deadly force is appropriate.

As a lawyer representing innocent people shot at by the police and as a former general counsel to the New York State Crime Victims Board (1977-87), I have seen this scenario play out over the last 30 years. Equipping the police routinely with military-style weapons is likely to result in even more death and injury to innocent civilians as well as to more criminal suspects.

Sarasota, Fla., Aug. 21, 2014


Jasmine O 08.23.14 at 5:12 pm

@26, while I agree that technology could and should provide better alternatives to suspect apprehension than deadly force, I couldn’t help picturing a sort of RFID-chip dart gun… what could possibly go wrong?


J Thomas 08.23.14 at 9:30 pm

@26, while I agree that technology could and should provide better alternatives to suspect apprehension than deadly force, I couldn’t help picturing a sort of RFID-chip dart gun… what could possibly go wrong?

If it’s just a stupid dart, it would get caught in thick clothing so they could remove it if they found it, or discard the clothing, or with the right scanner they could find it and destroy it given a little time.

On the other hand without thick clothing it might puncture the skin which is some ways not good, and depending on the force involved might hit someone’s eye or temple or carotid artery etc etc etc.

Say we tried to make it hi-tech. Tasers have limited range partly because they put most of the machinery in the cartridge that stays with the handle and not in the little needles that stick into the victim. Propel the needles harder and they hit nearby people harder, they’re more expensive, it’s harder to aim longer distances anyway, etc. If the propellant was on the dart, along with say a small rocket engine, and it continued to aim in flight using perhaps a small CCTV, it would be less likely to hit the wrong spot. Also it could move fast and then slow down when it was close, so the physical force it applied to a victim could be standardized.

The easy cheap way to aim would be to have the shooter continue to aim a small laser at the victim until contact, but that might not be necessary. Similarly, it would be some ways good to have a couple of wires leading back to the shooter that could carry electricity, partly because that makes it unambiguous exactly who the shooter was and partly because that gives him more control. But that wouldn’t be strictly necessary either.

And the dart could inject an RFID chip which could make it embarrassing to go through a metal detector etc. In case the victim got away. (Perhaps it could be arranged to set an alarm whenever the victim leaves a department store etc.) Of course, unlike stray cats a human would find a way to remove it

I can see a lot of drawbacks but not nearly as bad as shooting somebody with bullets. On the other hand, police know when they shoot somebody it’s serious, and if this was advertised as nonlethal they might use it more. We hear about the cases where police kill somebody they say was running away, but we don’t hear about the thousands (or possibly millions) of cases where somebody ran away and the police just let him go.

I can imagine the scenario. Police see somebody running from a crime scene. They call for him to stop and he keeps going. They tase him at 70 feet and he falls down on concrete. He breaks some bones, loses some teeth and gets a serious concussion. They think that’s just fine because he’s a criminal fleeing a crime scene so he deserves whatever he gets. But then it turns out he was an innocent deaf jogger who had no idea anybody wanted him to do anything….

But at least he isn’t be dead, unless the concussion and brain damage gets him.

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