Tag Archives: Michael Brown

Now it's Freddie Gray

The roster of African-American men whose death involving police activity keeps growing.

When does it stop? How do communities learn to deal with these crises? Have we reached a tipping point?

The latest man to die in police custody is a young fellow, Freddie Gray, whose spine was snapped while he was being held by Baltimore police.


And the outrage has begun. As it should.

How does someone get their spine broken by police? What in the world is happening when these officers arrest someone?

* Eric Garner was choked to death by a Staten Island police officer. A grand jury decided to no-bill the officer.

* Michael Brown was shot to death by a Ferguson, Mo., officer. A grand jury there decided against an indictment.

* Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood security officer, who then was acquitted of murder in a Sanford, Fla., trial.

* Walter Scott was shot to death in the back as he fled from a North Charleston, S.C., police officer, who’s now been charged with murder.

I am acutely aware that there are circumstances associated with some of these deaths, such as with Michael Brown’s conduct.

Still, we can add Freddie Gray to the list of individuals who’ve died becauseĀ of policeĀ activity. And once again, parents, siblings and spouses ofĀ African-American menĀ are going to express alarm that more men just like those who have died already will become victims of similar actions by police officers in their communities.

We’ve heard already about the need for a “national conversation” about police relations with African-American communities across the country.

Let’s keep having that conversation. Shall we?


Does this guy fit into the 'punk' category?

Jeremy Williams is now at the center of a controversy that doesn’t seem set to fade away.

He’s been arrested in connection with the shooting of two white police officers in Ferguson, Mo., a community beset with racial tension since the shooting death of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson; Brown was a young African-American man, while Wilson is a white former Ferguson cop.


Now comes Jeremy Williams. He’s black. He all but admitted to shooting the police officers, both of whom suffered non-life-threatening wounds.

Williams’s defense? He was shooting at someone else, not the officers.

Oh, here’s another thing: The young man is on probation for receiving stolen property. He’s not supposed to be carrying a firearm.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described whoever shot the officers as a “punk.”Ā Jeremy Williams appears to fit that description. Yes, there may be a whole host of extenuating circumstances that have led this young man to take the wrong path into adulthood. ā€œThis arrest sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated,ā€Ā Holder said.

What’s more, as a prosecutor said after announcing the young man’s arrest, it doesn’t matter one bit whether he intended to shoot the officers or was aiming at someone else, he’s been accused of committing a Class A felony.


Ferguson shooting suspect in custody

That didn’t take long.

Just a few days after two Ferguson, Mo., police officers were ambushed, authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with the crime.

He is 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams.


Let’s allow the system now to do its work.

Williams is accused of wounding the two officers who were watching a demonstration involving much of the recent racial tension that has gripped the St. Louis suburban community. This is where a young black man was shot to death by a white police officer; a grand jury declined to indict the officer for the young man’s death; violent protests erupted; the officer quit the police force; and the Justice Department has decided against pursuing federal civil rights charges against the officer.

Against that backdrop, someone shot the officers.

Williams told authorities he was shooting at someone else with whom he was having a disagreement. St. Louis County officials aren’t buying the story.

Whatever, this case has taken another bizarre turn.

I’m just hoping we can determine the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of a terrible crime.

As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, whoever did this is nothing more thanĀ a “punk.”

Well, even punks deserve fair justice.


Ex-cop won't face federal civil rights charges

I truly don’t know what to think about the Justice Department’s decision against prosecuting a former police officer in the death of a young black man.

Darren Wilson, formerly a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, was no-billed by a local grand jury this past year after he shot Michael Brown to death during an altercation.

The grand jury’s decision to let Wilson go set off a firestorm across the nation.

Then the Justice Department said it would weigh in on whether Wilson violated any federal civil rights laws when he shot Brown to death. The DOJ said today it wouldn’t prosecute him.


Is this a good thing? For Wilson, who quit the department after the grand jury cleared him, it’s certainly good news. Brown’s family no doubt feels differently.

Me? I tend to honor the local criminal justice system’s view on these matters. The locals said they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges against the officer and the feds have concurred with what the locals decided.

But there’s an interesting political back story here. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has been criticized — wrongly, in my view — as a “race-baiter.” The calls come from those on the right who contend that Holder, the nation’s first African-American AG, too often relies on race to inform his public policies.

Well, here we have a Justice Department deciding that the white former police officer didn’t commit a crime that needed a federal civil-rights trial to resolve.

Does that mean the criticism of Holder will subside, now that his department — which he is about to leave — hasĀ sided with the white guy?

Do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.


Obama haters go way beyond the pale

Good ever-loving grief. Can’t the Obama haters out there ever cease their incessant rants?

The latest comes from former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who said — are you ready for this? — that the president of the United States has implied that everyone should “hate the police.” Thus, Barack Obama is responsible for the assassination of two New York City police officers by a gunman who was angry over the disposition of the Eric Garner choking death case at the hands of a Staten Island policeman.


Yep, the one-time “America’s Mayor” has blamed the president for the actions of a lunatic.

Politifact managed to fact-check the ex-mayor’s assertion and has ruled it is a “Pants on Fire” lie. An outright falsehood.

The president has said nothing of the kind, ever, in all the discussion he’s had in public about the Garner case, or about the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., or about the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Fla. All three incidents involved black individuals being killed by police officers or, in the Martin case, a private neighborhood security officer.

As Politifact reports: “Part of Giulianiā€™s point is that Obama has been empathetic to the protesters, which he has been — though cautiously so. And he has always discouraged violent protests and excessive police response.”

Indeed, the president has taken great pains to insist that protests remain peaceful and civil.

To suggest he has called on Americans to “hate” the men and women who serve and protect their communities is toĀ tell an egregious lie.


Garner case is not about taxation

Conservative talking heads keep trying to change the subject while discussing the case involving Eric Garner, the black man choked to death in New York by a white police officer.

It’s reprehensible for them to try to turn the argument to something as ridiculous as taxation.


The video link attached here is difficult to watch. It features Fox News commentator Sean Hannity arguing with PBS commentator Tavis Smiley over the grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer who choked Garner to death. It’s difficult because the two of them keep arguing over each other, each trying to outshout the other. Perhaps the funniest part is when Hannity (a white guy) tells Smiley (a black guy) that he needs “to be educated” about how African-Americans should react to the Garner case and the one involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

But in the midst of the verbal melee, Hannity — quite predictably — tries to suggest the real villain here is a government that insists on taxing cigarettes in an effort to get as much money as it can.

What the … ?

Garner had been approached by the police for selling “loose cigarettes.” He was selling them individually, I guess to make a few bucks on the side. I presume that’s an illegal act, which is why the cops were hassling Garner in the first place.

Well, he argued back, telling the police he wasn’t doing anything wrong. One of them grabbed Garner in a chokehold, wrestled him to the ground, ignoring Garner’s “I can’t breathe” pleas.

Garner passed out and then died.

And Hannity — along with other right-wingers — wants to say the real villain is a tax policy that prohibits people from selling cigarettes in the manner that Eric Garner sought to sell them?

I cannot believe the crassness of such an argument.


Will hearings solve anything?

House Speaker John Boehner says he’s open to having congressional hearings on the deaths of two black men at the hands of white police officers.

Good. It is fair to wonder, though, whether they’ll lead to anything of substance.


The men at issue are Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both of whom died in confrontations with police officers. The man who shot Brown to death in Ferguson, Mo., was no-billed by a grand jury; the officer who choked Garner to death in New York got the same pass from another grand jury.

Of the two cases, the one involving Garner is proving to be more troublesome. A video shows the officer clamping a chokehold on Garner, who was being arrested for selling “loose” cigarettes. The Brown case involves a lot of contradictions. The Garner case, to my mind — and the minds of millions of others — is much more clear cut: The grand jury blew it.

Congressional hearings will enable a more complete airing of the problems associated with these cases. Perhaps the question ought to be: Are these violent acts by police occurring with more frequency to black men than to white men, and if so, why is that?

Let’s advance this conversation through thoughtful congressional testimony, shall we, Mr. Speaker?


It appears nearly unanimous: grand jury blew it

The chatter all across the country — from the left and the right — appears to be saying the same thing about the death of Eric Garner at the hands of Staten Island, N.Y. police.

The grand jury blew it when it declined to indict a police officer for a crime when he choked Garner to death.

I finally saw the video last night showing Garner being questioned by cops over his alleged selling of “illegal cigarettes.” Garner pleaded with the police to leave him alone, that he wasn’t guilty of any crime. One of the cops then slapped a choke hold on Garner, wrestled him to the ground.

Garner was heard on the video telling the officers 11 times that “I can’t breathe.” He passed out and then died.

And the grand jury couldn’t find probable cause to accuse the officer of a crime?

What in the world has happened here?

TheĀ difference between thisĀ incident and the Ferguson Mo., case involving the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young black man, by Darren Wilson, a white former police officer, is crystal clear. The Ferguson case had too many conflicting accounts of what happened, whether Brown was surrendering or attacking Wilson. The Garner case is cut, dried and laid out there for everyone to see: The police officer — aided by several of his colleagues — slapped a killer chokehold on Garner.

Could he have lessened the pressure enough to allow Garner to breathe? I believe he could have done exactly that.

Whatever in the world the grand jury was thinking needs to be revealed. As Ricky told Lucy: You got some ‘splainin’ to do.


'Sir Charles' speaks truthfully about looters

Charles Barkley never has enjoyed a reputation as a profound social commentator.

He’s a basketball hall of famer known more for his dunks than his verbal decorum.

However, he spoke with blunt truth about a group of people who have emerged as the universal bad guys in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision against indicting a white police officer who shot a young black man to death in Ferguson, Mo., this past summer.


He spoke about the looters who protested the grand jury’s findings, telling the New York Daily News:

“Those aren’t black people, those are scumbags,” the NBA Hall of Famer and TNT basketball analyst said of the rioters, who targeted mostly minority-owned businesses. “There is no excuse for people to be out there burning down people’s businesses, burning down police cars.”

At issue is the aftermath of the case involving the shooting death of Michael Brown by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The investigation produced a lot of contradictory evidence about whether Brown was surrendering, whether he was fighting with Wilson, whether Wilson was threatened physically or whether the officer profiled the young man only because of the color of his skin.

Agree or not with the decision, the response by many in the community went far beyond what is decent.

Barkley happens to agree with what the grand jury decided.

His larger point, though, is in condemning the irrational and idiotic reaction by the looters.

He’s right. They’re scumbags.


Severance package for Officer Wilson? No

Darren Wilson’s departure from the Ferguson (Mo.) Police Department well could provoke a protest among those who believe he deserves a severance package.

Allow me to argue that he doesn’t deserve it.

Wilson was cleared by a local grand jury of criminal charges in the August shooting death of a young black man, Michael Brown. The incident produced a firestorm of protest and the grand jury no-bill has reignited community — and indeed national — anger over the white officer’s role in Brown’s death.

He quit his job. Resigned voluntarily. What he’ll do next is anyone’s guess. I wish him well.

Wilson doesn’t deserve a severance package; the police department has said it won’t offer him one.

I have a bit of personal knowledge about this kind of issue.

I left my last job in daily journalism under duress. The company reorganized its newsroom operation, rolled my once-autonomous department into the newsroom, asked everyone to apply for jobs; I applied for mine, but it went to someone else.

“Well,” I thought, “I think I’ll just quit.”

During my final visit the next day with my soon-to-be former employer, I inquired about a severance. He all but laughed in my face before telling me “No. You resigned.” We talked a few more moments. Then I left,Ā never to return as an employee of that operation.

Wilson’s departure from the Ferguson came totally of his own volition.

Severance package for quitting? Not a chance.