Throughout the day and evening Tuesday, a number of events seemed to foreshadow the inevitable non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9th. While there had been leaks in recent days providing information from the federal and county investigations into the shooting, Tuesday served up the culmination of what appears to be a deliberate effort by prosecutors, police and government officials to change public opinion towards Wilson and set the stage for him to walk.
The day began innocently enough with the continued humiliation of a state senator who tried to bolster her public profile and credibility with Ferguson activists by staging a publicity stunt and getting herself arrested on purpose. After refusing bond and spending the night in jail, she held a planned press conference at 10 AM local time and gave an unsatisfactory and frankly confused explanation for her intentional arrest. Further embarrassment came her way when it was revealed that she was carrying a loaded weapon at the time of her arrest (she has a conceal carry license) and officers said she smelled of alcohol. She refused a breathalyzer test.
However, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon changed the tone when he held a press conference near Ferguson at 1 PM local time. During an at times impassioned speech, Nixon called for the formation of a Ferguson Commission, which will conduct a study of the aftermath of Brown’s killing and provide recommendations for changes in Ferguson and the surrounding area. He said he would name members of the committee in November and that it will consist of a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds. However, he reiterated his support for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and pointed out that the study and committee will not be looking into the death of Brown. That will be left to McCulloch and the grand jury.
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With his continuing commitment to McCulloch, whose objectivity has been questioned due to his extremely close relationship with law enforcement, and his refusal to name a special prosecutor, Nixon’s words fell on mostly deaf ears. Protesters and activists don’t want to hear of a task force, commission, study or anything else you want to call it. They want a transparent investigation into a shooting that seems both suspect and excessive. In the end, they just get a press conference from a governor who they feel has both abandoned and taken them for granted. And it seems that Nixon’s intent was just to get something set in place for the inevitable unrest that will soon occur in Ferguson.
After Nixon’s press conference and the subsequent media coverage and discussion, the leaks started flowing. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dumped articles in the evening revealing the official St. Louis County autopsy of Brown and an account of Wilson’s story of the events surrounding the shooting. The article discussing the autopsy was written by Christine Byers. She is the reporter who, while she was on medical leave, tweeted out that over a dozen witnesses confirmed Wilson’s version of the shooting.
Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop’s version of events in shooting #Ferguson
— Christine Byers (@ChristineDByers) August 19, 2014
Byers’ tweet set off a firestorm due to a number of media outlets reporting it as fact because of her position as crime reporter for The Post. However, it was later revealed that she was, in fact, on medical leave and was just tweeting out an unfounded rumor. The paper had to issue a correction and she tweeted out that it did not meet the paper’s standards. To say that she is seen with a bit of scrutiny by many in and around Ferguson is putting it lightly. The autopsy article will likely be seen as incredibly biased by some due to her history, especially as she focused on traces of marijuana found in Brown’s system and interviewed forensic experts (but not the county medical examiner, who refused comment) who stated that the autopsy supported Wilson’s statements.
Another article appeared simultaneously providing a detailed account of Wilson’s statements of the events surrounding the shooting. An unnamed source who is close to the investigation relayed the information to The Post. Per Wilson, he struggled with Brown inside his SUV and said that Brown tried to reach for his gun. Wilson then stated that he shot at him twice while in the car, hitting him once. Brown then started to run away.
According to Wilson, Brown suddenly stopped and then started charging towards him. Wilson stated that Brown had one hand near his waist, apparently suggesting that he felt Brown may have had a weapon on him. Wilson stated that he began shooting only when Brown started running towards him. The officer also said Brown never had his hands up in the air. Wilson confirms that he drove himself to the police station and then was taken to the hospital by other officers. He suffered no broken bones but said he had bruises and scratches.
A number of activists provided their opinions Tuesday evening of this concerted effort to shape the narrative ahead of the announcement from the grand jury.
This is a strategic move from the prosecutors to alter the publics opinion so that they are prepared for the non indictment #ferguson
— KayRay (@RE_invent_ED) October 22, 2014
Darren Wilson has had 74 days to practice telling his story and responding to all evidence. His PR firm is doing wonders. #Ferguson
— deray mckesson (@deray) October 22, 2014
Out of the 8 witness accounts we’ve heard the one that is THE most different is Wilson’s. #ferguson
— Dr. Cornel Fresh (@WyzeChef) October 22, 2014
This is making my heart so heavy to see this all unfold. I’m hurt b/c I know what’s coming. I don’t want his death to be in vain.
— ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 22, 2014
Bob McCulloch and Attorney General Holder should be launching investigations into who is leaking this info. Police? Attorneys? Jurors?
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) October 22, 2014
Below is the entire St. Louis County autopsy report that was leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).