Why did the Ferguson Police Department leave the body of Michael Brown uncovered in the hot street after a police officer killed him?
If you want to know why African-American men and women in Ferguson, Mo., are so upset, put yourself in their place for a moment.
All you need to do is look at the cellphone video of Brown lying in the middle of the street – in broad daylight – face down with a long trail of blood coming from his body.
In video shown on CNN, a woman is heard screaming: “Who the – – did it? Who the – – did it?” Other people are heard screaming, “Where is the ambulance? Where is the ambulance?”
After Brown was shot six times by Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, Brown’s body lay in the street for hours. He was not covered up for some time. His body was not taken to a hospital or morgue. Brown’s body just lay there, surrounded by yellow tape.
People are angry because animals often are treated with more respect when they are hit by a car.
Even if the Ferguson police did not want to disturb the crime scene, they at least should have put a barricade around the body so that children couldn’t see what happens when six bullets tear into a person.
The results of a second autopsy released Sunday shows that the 18-year-old was shot twice in the head and four times in the arm. There was no indication that Brown had been in an altercation, which seems to contradict the statements of Brown’s friend, who said the officer grabbed Brown’s neck with one hand and shot him with the other.
I realize that the Ferguson department is small, but that doesn’t excuse the obvious missteps. To make matters worse, Ferguson is 70 percent black, but the police force is nearly all white. Blacks in town make up more than 80 percent of all vehicle stops and 85 percent of all arrests. Before Brown’s shooting, there were numerous complaints of racial harassment by law enforcement.
I have received a number of emails from people saying that my columns on this issue have been to “blame whitey” for the shooting and that when blacks kill blacks, it does not generate nearly the same outcry from the black community.
My take is this: I’m not blaming anyone, but it looks suspicious when dozens of unarmed black men are killed or die in police custody every year. When there are shootings in the black community, the police often do a good job of rounding up the shooters, charging them and sending them away to prison for years or even life. The same cannot be said when police officers kill unarmed people in custody. When that happens, it usually is passed off as a “training issue,” and seldom are police officers prosecuted.
The family of Dontre Hamilton, 31, who was killed by a Milwaukee police officer in downtown Milwaukee on April 30, may be a case in point. Hamilton’s family still wonders if any charges will be filed after the death of their loved one. Hamilton was shot 15 times, his family has claimed, by the officer after an altercation. His family said Hamilton had a history of mental illness. Some of the family members took part in a march over the weekend to protest police brutality.
From 2006 to 2012, a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country. In the past decade alone, hundreds have lost their lives to police.
Bottom line: The Ferguson Police Department has bungled the Brown case. And now with a tighter curfew and calls for the National Guard, things don’t seem to be calming down.
People should make their voices heard on this. But they have to do so in a reasonable fashion. Rioting is a terrible response and only harms the community. The people who are rioting in Ferguson need to understand that and put an end to lawlessness.
But the rest of America needs to understand something else: why there is so much anger among blacks in a place such as Ferguson. It’s because black people are dying at the hands of police and then sometimes are treated no better than road kill. That’s why folks are so angry. It’s why they have a right to be angry.
James E. Causey writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.