The following is an excerpt from my latest news analysis in The Hill.
‘Hands up, don’t shoot” never happened. Somebody tell the Democrats running for president.
Even amid the heated political rhetoric that dominates the news media and social media, resurrected false claims about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., stand out as egregious.
On Friday and Saturday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, all running for their party’s nomination for president, tweeted out statements containing disproven claims or false implications about the incident…
Warren tweeted: “5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.”
I’m not too surprised when I hear friends and members of the public refer to the debunked narratives about the Ferguson shooting. I’ll explain why in a moment. But I was more than a little taken aback to find these presidential candidates — some of them lawyers — passing along divisive, libelous implications.
To back up for a moment, the shooting happened on Aug. 9, 2014. A Ferguson, Mo., police officer named Darren Wilson shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed suspect named Michael Brown. Brown was black, Wilson is white. Witnesses claimed that Officer Wilson had shot Brown in cold blood while Brown’s hands were raised in surrender. Though without evidence, those accounts were afforded wide credence in the media. They sparked riots. They ignited a movement called “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
If ever there were a time for responsible journalists to carefully mitigate uncorroborated and inflammatory claims, this was arguably the moment. At the time, pockets of the nation were a racial tinderbox.
The problem is, all of the racially-tinged accusations against Officer Wilson were likely false, according to the final analysis by President Obama’s Department of Justice. The report, issued in 2015, found that Officer Wilson’s accounts were corroborated. He’d acted in self-defense. Brown, the report said, had reached into the police vehicle and grabbed Officer Wilson by the neck. And Brown appeared to be lunging toward Officer Wilson when Officer Wilson shot him in self-defense.
The Obama Justice Department investigators concluded that original witness accounts claiming that Brown’s hands were up when he was shot, and other key claims, were “unreliable” and — in many instances — directly contradicted by the forensic evidence, while Officer Wilson’s story was supported by the forensics. “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the Obama Justice Department found, was contrary to reliable accounts — and likely fabricated. (Continued)
Read the rest of the article in The Hill by clicking the link below:
Police released surveillance video (screen shots below) that officials say depicts Michael Brown allegedly stealing a box of cigars from a store prior to the shooting. When a store clerk flagged the alleged theft, the video appears to show Brown grabbing the clerk the throat. Brown appears to start to exit but comes back toward the clerk one more time before leaving the store. A short time later, the Obama Justice Department says, Brown reached into the police vehicle of Officer Darren Wilson and grabbed Wilson by the throat. The Obama Justice Department concluded that Officer Wilson fatally shot Brown in self defense as Brown was lurching towards him.