On August 9th, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot an unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown at least six times, killing him. Mike Brown's body was left on the street for the next four hours. What happened over the next few days was predictable and fueled the still continuing unrest in the St. Louis suburb.
The police department refused to release the officer's name, citing threats to officers, in marked contrast to the treatment of most homicide suspects. The now-militarized police department deployed in force to suppress the anger and unrest in the streets. The pundits began to question the character of Mike Brown. Finally, when the name of the officer who killed Brown was finally released, the department made sure to release a video alleging Brown stole some Swisher Sweets, clearly implying that would be an acceptable reason for capital punishment in the streets.
We know how this ends: Officer Wilson will never face justice. For all the protests, arrests, statements, and calls for justice - we know justice will never come for Mike Brown.
We don't suspect justice won't be done, we absolutely know it won't. And how do we know? Kelly Thomas. James Boyd. Oscar Grant. Eric Garner. Kimani Gray. If I continued the list of unarmed people killed by the police who never faced justice, it would fill the entire 800 word limit of this article and still not scratch the surface. Even with the very small sampling here I'll likely go over that limit.
Police officers across the country commit authorized murder every week. Lost under the constant media coverage of the unrest in Ferguson was the killing of another unarmed black man in Los Angeles two days after the killing of Brown. Ezell Ford, a mentally ill, unarmed man, was gunned down by LAPD officers in the back, while lying on the ground with his hands up according to witnesses. The LAPD has refused to release any more information, except to report the go-to claim of police departments that the victim reached for the officer's gun.
Just over a month ago, on July 17th, Eric Garner was approached for selling un-taxed cigarettes, subsequently placed in a choke hold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, pulled to the ground and had his face shoved into the concrete. Garner repeatedly stated he could not breath. He was dead seven minutes later. On August 1, 2014, medical examiners concluded chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner's death and officially ruled it a homicide. Officer Pantaleo has still not been charged and is currently still on desk duty for the NYPD.
Kelly Thomas was a fixture of the Fullerton, California homeless community and the son of a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy. On July 5th, 2011, Fullerton officers approached Thomas while investigating an unrelated call. After Thomas refused a search, Fullerton officer Manuel Ramos, while putting on latex gloves, asked Thomas "Now you see my fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up." What followed was one of the most brutal beatings by police caught on video, with six officers joining in. In the video, Thomas can be heard begging for his life and calling out for his father. Following the beating, Thomas slipped into a coma and died five days later.
A paramedic on the scene later claimed he was ordered to attend to the minor injuries of an officer before he noticed Thomas lying in a pool of blood. Medical records show that bones in his face were broken and he choked on his own blood.
Officers Jay Cicinelli and Joseph Wolfe were charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter and one count of excessive force. Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter. Both Ramos and Cicinelli were found not-guilty. Charges against Wolfe were dismissed.
James Boyd was a mentally ill, handicapped, homeless man camping on BLM land outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. On March 16th of this year, officers from the Albuquerque Police Department approached Boyd after being alerted to his presence. As Boyd was surrendering, the officers launched a flash bang grenade, ordered Boyd to get on the ground, and released an attack dog on him. Immediately after, Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez fired three shots. James Boyd was dead the next day. The FBI is investigating, but five months later, no charges have been brought against the officers.
Kimani Gray was a 16 year old in Brooklyn, New York stopped under the NYPD's now-deemed unconstitutional "stop and frisk" policy. On March 9th, 2013, NYPD Sgt. Mourad Mourad and Officer Jovaniel Cordova unloaded 11 shots towards Gray. The police line was that Kimani pointed a gun at them. However, the only eyewitness to the killing, Tishana King, stated repeatedly that she never saw a gun and one certainly wasn't pointed at the officers. King further stated one of the officers stood over Kimani as he lay bleeding on the ground and continued to fire into him. The medical report seems to confirm her statements as three of the seven bullets that entered Kimani entered through his back. He was dead on the scene. The DA declined to press charges.
On New Years Day, 2009, Oscar Grant was detained on a San Francisco / Oakland BART train in connection to a fight that had been reported. While restrained face down on his stomach, Officer Johannes Mehserle pulled his gun and shot Oscar in the back. Grant died the next morning. After protests and riots, the state finally agreed to charge Officer Mehserle with murder. He was sentenced to two years, of which he served only six months. The judge in the case overturned the gun enhancement sentencing which would have added three to ten years, as well as giving Officer Mehserle double credit for time served.
This is just a small sampling over the last few years. Sean Bell, Patrick Dorismond, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo, among literally thousands of others who were unarmed have been killed by American cops over the last decade. In each of these cases it took protests, riots, and unrest for the the state to even consider charges. In each of these cases, the victim was smeared and the killing justified. In all of these cases justice was denied.
And it will be the same for the killer of Mike Brown.
Libel and slander law in the US is designed to place a monopoly of deciding if something is a crime in the hands of judges invested in a system even the US Attorney General admits is institutionally racist. As such I've been careful to refer to the killers of the victims above as "killers" and not murderers. But let's be clear - in the eyes of many people of common sense, everyone of the officers listed above murdered these people. And got away with it.
The people of Ferguson are in the streets again tonight. Because they know what we all know - the cop who killed Mike Brown, like the cops who killed countless others, will never face justice. And as long as the state continues allowing murderers to wear badges and carry guns, they'll continue to be.