Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin: Spinning Tragedy
by Geraldo Rivera | Aug 15, 2014
It is outrageous that we only found out now, nearly a week after the fact, that 18-year old Michael Brown, the kid tragically killed on the streets of Ferguson Missouri, met the description of a suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store obtained from a 911 call received at 11:51am on Saturday August 9. Ten minutes later, at 12:01pm, and just a ¼ mile away, Brown and his alleged accomplice are spotted and confronted by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
If Officer Wilson heard the 911 call, of course the cop is tensed up. The six-year veteran with a spotless record is facing a belligerent 6’4” 250 pound kid who the cop may have reasonable cause to believe is a suspect who has just forcibly robbed someone.
Why the delay in releasing the information about the robbery?
Late Friday afternoon, the muddled police chief of Ferguson, Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson said Officer Wilson never drew the link between that strong-arm robbery and the jaywalking incident that supposedly captured the cop’s attention ten minutes later.
So why release the explosive surveillance video of the convenience store robbery at all if there is no connection with the kid’s subsequent death?
The video shows the convenience store incident starting as a minor shop-lifting of a box of cigars apparently by Michael Brown. When the diminutive store clerk confronts the big kid, Brown appears to whack him up the side of his face. Then, pushing past the stunned clerk, Brown and a pal leave the store.
The family of the victim says the release of the video is just character assassination. I disagree. At the very least, watching the surveillance video of Brown allegedly robbing the convenience store should alter our perception of the victim.
The portrait of the kid as an unarmed, innocent, college-bound youth ruthlessly shot in the back while trying to surrender seems incomplete at best.
However clumsy the release of the video was, it is relevant. Here is why:
Whether Officer Wilson knew that Brown just robbed someone, Brown himself certainly knew what he just did. Was his conduct toward the officer stopping him for jaywalking affected by the fact that Brown committed a robbery and shoved a clerk ten minutes earlier? Was the kid pumped up? Worried? Agitated?
This case is troubling. A teenager is dead and a community torn apart. The circumstances of the fatal police shooting will be reviewed, as all police shooting must be, by appropriate authorities, local, state and federal. If deadly force was used unlawfully, the cop will be prosecuted vigorously. But efforts by activists to portray the unarmed teen as a choirboy maliciously murdered by a racist cop are misguided, unhelpful and untrue.
Like the killing of another black teenager, Trayvon Martin in Florida, every effort is being made by activists to frame the tragic Missouri incident as an act of vicious, wanton, racist murder.
In both cases, emotions are in part driven by images circulated by one side or the other. In the Trayvon Martin case, the pictures released by supporters showed the young man in the most benign light. One showed him skiing, another smiling broadly and riding a pony.
That image of Trayvon as a non-threatening, harmless youngster was later muddled by photographs released by the other side showing Trayvon posing as a ‘gansta’ rapper, holding weapons and sporting an elaborate grill on his teeth. Additionally, store surveillance video from earlier on the evening Trayvon was killed showed the young man wearing a hoodie and looking like every 7/11 robbery suspect ever caught on tape.
The effort to portray Trayvon’s killing as racially-motivated murder was also hindered by the fact the shooter George Zimmerman was a hapless Hispanic; a neighborhood watch captain who was getting his ass kicked and his head bloodied at the time he drew his weapon and killed Trayvon.
The jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic, quickly decided that Zimmerman was not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. They saw the young man through Zimmerman’s eyes, threatening and dangerous.
I predict the same result if Officer Wilson is charged with murdering Michael Brown in St. Louis County Missouri. The jury will react along racial lines and identify with either the white cop or the black kid. Those from the white-dominated suburbs will see the young man as a bully and a crook that probably did something to provoke the violence that led to his death. Residents of the inner city will see the slain youngster as a surrogate for every black man ever killed by police violence.
As Senator Rand Paul of nearby Kentucky just wrote in Time Magazine, “Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.”
It is America’s dirty secret.