Beginning last evening there’s been plenty of news about Officer Darren Wilson, un-armed victim Michael Brown and Ferguson MO. There’ll be a great deal more.
The news will be as it is.
Some thoughts from my little corner….
Yesterday afternoon I met a guy at a local restaurant I frequent. He was a retired police Lieutenant. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Mary, who’s a grandma and a waitress par excellence.
As he was leaving, we compared notes a bit: he’s retired 16 years from an area Police Force, me, 14 from teacher union work. I gave him my card with my blog address, and told him I’d written about the tragic death of policeman Shawn Patrick in neighboring Mendota Heights some months ago. Maybe he checked it out.
Of course, very shortly thereafter Mendota Heights came Ferguson MO, which I also wrote about here.
The story about the implications of Ferguson is just beginning.
A few thoughts about what I’ll call “A Victim Impact Statement”.
When the Grand Jury deliberated, one witness obviously missing was Michael Brown, deceased. He was not available for questioning. He was dead.
He publicly lives on in (it seems) in a photograph, and a tiny piece of stupid kid action in a convenience store, caught on surveillance camera. There’s nothing he wrote about what happened that afternoon; there’s nothing he’s said.
He has no voice.
Officer Darren Wilson, on the other hand has a voice. He could tell his own story to people who mattered. And in the halls of justice he has apparently been cleared, according to the laws of the state of Missouri.
But Wilson’s own life will never be the same again. He is a victim as certainly as Wilson was.
He’s left the force, apparently, and after a certain period of great public attention, he will disappear into the anonymous world of one-time celebrities. His enduring fame will be as the cop who shot the unarmed kid on the streets of Ferguson MO. People will forget the date and the circumstances and the arguments will be whether or not he deserved his fate.
There are other victims too: Brown’s parents; Wilson’s family; the entire community…on and on. This espisode only began when the gunshots fell silent. There are many victim statements being written.
Shortly, I’ll head to my barber who is retired, works from his home, was a Marine in Vietnam, has a son who’s a policeman, and I’ll bring up the topic. We will have an interesting few minutes together today. We are, and will remain, very good friends. We might disagree.
For me, the un-indicted co-conspirator in this and in so many other cases will be weaponry – a gun. Surely it was used legally by an officer of the law. But without it, I wouldn’t be writing this piece. Michael Brown wouldn’t be dead.
Darren Wilson has killed a young man in circumstances none of us will never know for sure.
We can all be righteous in our judgments, but the fact remains: there are at least two victims in this scenario, a young cop and a young kid.
Will we learn anything?
POSTNOTE: The visit to the barber began with his bringing up the situation in Ferguson: I didn’t have to raise the topic. The topic dominated our minutes together. We had a very civil conversation.
There was talk about “anarchists” and the 2008 Republican Convention security in St. Paul. St. Paul was an armed camp then. At the time, his barber shop was within blocks of possible violence. He worried. I was in a protest march: I saw the police on rooftops in over-the-top battle gear. We were peaceful – no anarchists around me.
My barber was a Marine in Vietnam. In the course of conversation he brought up the battle of Chu Lai, of which he was a part, near 50 years ago. He remembered the shooting, particularly he and his buddy shooting at two people in pajama like garb running away. One fell dead. Afterwards they went to check. The victim was a very young girl. Neither of them has ever forgot what they saw that day in battle.
We wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving, and I was on my way.
from Flo, Nov 25: Regarding your blog post. I think of the goal of Restorative Justice, recognizing that there’s a perpetrator, victim, and a community, including the families, for whom the need for justice needs to be addressed. For sure, there is no peace reigning in communities of color, anywhere, at this time. White people are further arming themselves against their perceived enemies, and the war goes on. Here is a piece that was just sent out by our UMC Bishop Ough for your consideration: “Do justice Special message from Bishop Ough following grand jury ruling in Ferguson”
from Carol, Nov 25: It didn’t take long to find this online, altho’ it was long ago. I remember being just stunned by the grand jury decision. These kids were running away from the police officer through an orchard, and he shot once. The bullet went through the back of both boys, killing them both. The officer said he thought they were adults, as “Hmong are small people” (I guess it’s OK to shoot adults in the back). This crap didn’t just start with Ferguson.
On Friday, November 19, the US District Court approved dispersal of $200,000 for the families of two Hmong teenagers that an Inver Grove Heights Police Officer Kenneth Murphy shot and killed in 1989, Inver Grove Heights Attorney Pete Regnier told ASIAN PAGES. The court determined this settlement last March, Regnier said.
… 13-year-old Ba See Lor, who was killed in the Inver Grove Heights case. Also shot and killed in Inver Grove Heights in 1989 was 13-year-old Thai Yang…
In 1990, a Dakota County Grand Jury issued a no indictment decision for the deaths in Inver Grove Heights, avoiding charges against Officer Murphy. After a police chase, the boys left their stolen car and ran across a field, but one boy carried a screwdriver that Officer Murphy thought was a gun.
from Dick, postnote: It happened, shortly after Ferguson erupted into the national news in August, that I was driving down a city street in Woodbury and for no apparent reason a policeman pulled me over. He approached the car, and was very polite, and told me I had not signalled my turn. This surprised me. I always signal my turn (but this time I had forgotten). He asked to see my insurance papers, and I looked where they always are kept, in the glove box. But they weren’t there. Now I was rattled.
There was no ticket, not even a warning, and the officer was very pleasant (such as these things go), and I was on my way. But the whole episode shook me up. This was not part of my daily return.
A little later I took out my wallet, and there was the insurance certificate. I had taken it out when I rented a truck to help a friend move. I wrote a note to the officer.
The entire episode reminded me that encounters between police and civilians are never benign, regardless of guilt or innocence. The word to the police has to be, it’s all about relationship. If the relationship comes to be based in power, and in the case of Michael Brown, armed power, all is lost. In my opinion, The Gun is a very major part of this issue. We need to attend to the issue of Guns in our society, regardless of who carries them or for what reason.