While there will continue to be great divide over the decision of the Ferguson grand jury, we now at least have some facts that can allow for some real dialogue about the merits of that decision. Most importantly, the Prosecutor has released the testimony of the main witness, Officer Wilson.
The portion of his testimony highlighted by the Prosecutor in support of not indicting was where the officer described Brown punching him through his car window and trying to grab his gun. At that point, the officer described fear for his life and shot in self-defense. He described Brown as looking back at him with the face of a demon. The forensic evidence in the form of blood in the car supported his version up to that point.
The sequence following those first shots is where the real debate still lies. Although the Prosecutor said that several witnesses as to this portion were discredited, Off. Wilson’s own testimony raises some real questions. Although he testified he was being attacked in the car, he stated that Brown started running away after the first set of shots. Off. Wilson then got out of his car and chased, even though this “demon-faced” man had just nearly killed him. Only after his chase did Brown suddenly reverse direction and come back on the attack. After this second attempted attack by Brown, Off. Wilson fired the lethal shots.
Although the beginning and end of Off. Wilson’s testimony could support a self-defense claim, the middle part does not mesh. If he indeed shot from his car out of fear for his life and successfully sent his attacker running, does it make sense to chase that attacker down? Does the desire to arrest this man and bring him to justice outweigh his desire to save his life by driving away? Off. Wilson said in an interview last night that it was his duty as an officer. But should the duty extend that far and really trump that level of fear, if it truly existed?
These questions and more will continue, but the hope is that they continue as part of civil discourse. No matter ones view, it started with a tragedy and continues to be a tragedy. Only with careful review of the facts can we start to overcome it.