Shooting Death of Michael Brown
Michael Brown was shot to death on 9th August 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. At the time, Brown was not armed and he was accompanied by his twenty-two-year-old friend Dorian Johnson. The incident prompted the FBI and the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, to open a criminal investigation to establish whether the shooting contravened the federal law. Therefore, the investigation entailed reviewing various forms of evidence, which included ballistic, forensic, and crime scene evidence, autopsy and medical reports, internet postings, video and audio recordings, and the personnel records of the officer involved in the shooting. Over more than a hundred purported eyewitnesses and other persons asserting to have pertinent information were interviewed by the various investigating agencies. Agents from the FBI also canvassed over 300 residences to identify and interview more witnesses.
The Ferguson Police Department responded to the shooting scene within 2 minutes, and the issue was consequently turned over to SLCPD for further investigation. A few days later, the FBI joined the investigation team. It was discovered that Brown and Wilson’s encounter took about 2 minutes on 9th August 2014. According to a witness, Brown had been involved in a theft at a store where he stole several packages of cigarillos; all this had been recorded in the store’s surveillance video. According to the dispatch recordings, and the transmissions of Wilson’s radio, it was clear that the officer knew the theft and a description of the suspects as he came across Brown and Witness 101. According to Wilson, Brown had attempted to reach into his SUV and punching him and, he had responded by withdrawing his gun. He had fired the gun striking Brown in the hand (2 times) when the teenager had struggled with him to gain control of the gun. Wilson had then chased after Brown when he ran. The chase ended up with Wilson shooting Brown 10 times.
Initial law enforcement investigation
The law enforcement investigation established that Wilson shot the victim at about 12.02pm on the 9th August 2014. The FPD officers had responded to the scene within minutes; resident also started coming to the scene within minutes. The officers then asked the SLCPD precincts for help, in particular, to start investigations into the homicide. Several people among the crowd who gathered in the scene became hostile and expressed their desire to kill the police officers on the scene. Paramedics arrived at the scene within 20 minutes and covered Brown’s body with several white sheets. Once they arrived at the scene, the SLCPD detectives erected orange privacy screens around the victim’s body and, the St. Louis County Medical Examiner (“SCLME”) was alerted to respond to the scene.
When relying on the law that governs the utilization of deadly force by a police officer to prove a violation of Section 242, the government is required to prove several components beyond reasonable doubt, and these elements encompass:
• That the accused was acting under color of law
• That he denied the victim of a right that the Constitution or the United States laws protects
• That he acted in a willful manner, and
• That the deprivation led to bodily harm/death
Clearly, Wilson acted under the color of law when he fired shots at Brown and killed him. Establishing if criminal prosecution is suitable depends on whether there is adequate evidence to prove that any of the shots that Wilson fired were unreasonable as described under federal law. The utilization of deadly force is justifiable in cases where the law enforcer has probable cause to believe that the suspect is likely to pose severe physical harm to the officer or others. According to the report, the evidence gathered fails to establish that the shots that Wilson fired were impartially unreasonable under federal law.
In his account to the investigating team, Wilson claimed that he was driving his SUV when he saw Brown and Witness 101 walking in the center of the street on the yellow line and approached them advising that they utilize the sidewalk since there had been vehicles attempting to pass them. It was then the Wilson noticed that Brown was carrying cigarillos in his hands and realized that witness 101 matched the person as described on the radio dispatch. He therefore, tried to stop them and wait for backup prior to conducting any further investigation into the theft. It was not until that Brown became violent and tried to attack him while he was in the SUV, that he responded by shooting him twice. Brown then tried to flee and, Wilson pursued him on foot, screaming at him to stop and get on the ground. Brown continued to run, but suddenly stopped and turned around towards him and started running at him. Wilson asserted that he feared for his life and that’s when he started firing shots at Brown. In total, Wilson fired 10 shots killing the victim.
The evidence as presented by the report fails to meet the standards for presentation of an accusation as set forth in the USAM in the ruling federal law. As such, the evidence is inadequate to determine probable cause or to prove that Section 242 was contravened beyond a reasonable doubt. This applies to all 6-8 gun shots that struck the victim. Many accounts of credible witnesses substantiate nearly each material aspect of the accounts given by Wilson and corroborate with the physical evidence. As earlier stated the intention of Wilson shooting Brown was because he believed him to be a deadly threat. The only likely ground for bringing charges against Wilson under Section 242 would be thus be if the government could prove that his accounts were false.
I do agree with the findings of the DOJ report. This is because the accounts of most witnesses and the account of Wilson as to what happened on that fateful day match with physical evidence. According to Kanu & Kaplan, (2016), physical evidence is very valuable as it addresses issues that pertain to the work at the scene, from the first responders’ actions to evidence submission to the lab. Physical evidence is also highly reliable as it offers the very foundation for making it possible to reconstruct events based on evidence (Singh & Singh 2019). According to physical evidence, Brown was violent towards Wilson, and as such, Wilson was right to believe that Brown was a threat to his life, thus prompting him to fire at him in self defense.
The report concludes that since the issue does not have prosecutive value, it should thus be closed.
Kanu, A. B., & Kaplan, L. J. (2016). The quest for confirmatory data in crime scene
investigations. Chem Educator, 21, 231-239.
Singh, A. K., & Singh, A. (2019). The Legal Aspects of Forensic Science with Reference to
Crime Scene Investigation. IUP Law Review, 9(1).