Paul Jacob

A week ago last Saturday, at high noon in Ferguson, Missouri, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson. Brown was black, Wilson is white.

Protests immediately followed, understandably; sadly, so did rioting and looting.

Not to mention dueling narratives.

Michael Brown was an unarmed kid walking to his grandmother’s house on that fateful day, and would have been on his way to college this fall. Instead, according to some accounts, Brown was gunned down in the sweltering August street in a hail of bullets. Why? No reason. It was in effect an execution by this policeman — even though Brown had his hands up and posed no threat.

It has been reported that Michael Brown’s body was left lying in the street for hours, but that he never received any medical care.

His “lynching by bullet” shows that racism is alive and well and too often administered by the police.

The police version is quite different. It alleges that Michael Brown was walking in the middle of the street blocking the road and that, when Brown was stopped, he assaulted the policeman, Darren Wilson. They note that Wilson is a six-year veteran of the force with a clean record. They say Brown tried to take Wilson’s gun, and that the gun discharged first in the squad car during that altercation, before Wilson shot and killed Brown, apparently some 30 feet from the police car.

As for receiving medical care, according to the police, an ambulance was on the scene assessing Brown’s condition within 5 minutes of the shooting.

On Friday, police also released a surprising video showing Brown robbing a convenience store and physically assaulting an employee not 15 minutes prior to the deadly altercation with Officer Wilson. That was the first time I recall hearing the 6-foot-4-inch, nearly 300-lb. Brown referred to by his nickname: “Big Mike.”

The implication is that Brown was the cause of the violent incident.

What really happened? I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

No doubt, the truth is not exactly as either narrative suggests. Maybe not even close. Michael Brown might be an angel or a devil and it could still be a case of police misconduct, even flat-out, cold-blooded murder.

Or not that way at all … and, instead, a justifiable act of self-defense.

Or something else altogether.

Until we know more of the facts, it isn’t possible to know for certain.

Admittedly, I’m skeptical there was justification for the use of deadly force. Libertarians usually are skeptical of government power. But I’d like to know the facts before passing judgment.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.