Interesting Lessons from Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury Testimony
Over the past day or so I’ve seen a lot of people tweeting single images of absurd portions of Darren Wilson’s testimony before the grand jury, but I wanted to make a single post collecting all these excerpts in a single place. You can read the entire transcript if you dare.
So many of these statements are internally inconsistent or just utterly implausible that I assume they aren’t true. Rather than using “allegedly” over and over again, I’ve omitted it from the recounting below, but know that it is very much intended.
EDIT: A commenter pointed out that I had referred to Brown as a child, when he was actually 18. I’ve corrected this reference below.
There’s a Use of Force Continuum, Most of Which Can be Trivially Discarded
Throughout his testimony, Darren Wilson wanted to make sure the grand jury knew two things in particular: his life was in constant peril from the moment he pulled over his police SUV to talk to Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson, and Brown left him no option but to use deadly force.
You might think that seems a bit excessive, and Wilson considered that possibility too! But fortunately, in the midst of all the chaos that would unfold, he took a moment to envision a “use of force triangle” floating before him and he input the particular parameters of the situation, coolly calculated his available options along the force continuum, and then shot Brown six or seven times.
A “use of force” triangle helpfully illustrates policies about when it is appropriate or justified for an officer to use certain types of force. You can see from the example above that the response varies in proportion to the action of the subject. At the top of the diagram, an officer response of “Deadly Force” is associated with subject action considered “Assaultive (Serious Physical Injury/Death).” If the action taken by the subject can be classified as less aggressive or resistive, there is a wide spectrum of less forceful responses available to the officer.
Wilson claims that the incident escalated when Brown hit him in the face through the open window of his SUV from about six inches away from the door. Were any of these other responses available to Wilson that day?
Wilson wore a can of mace on the left side of his duty belt on the day of the incident. See transcript at 204:18–25, 206:9–11. However, using the mace instead of a gun simply was not an option, for two really good reasons:
- Wilson couldn’t reach the left side of his own waist using his right hand.
2. Brown used his hands to form a hermetic seal that could shield his entire face against an aerosolized cloud of chemical irritant. Even more impressively, he did so while simultaneously using them to hit Wilson.
Wilson was not carrying a taser on the day of the incident, for the following (also really good) reasons:
- It Is Not The Most Comfortable Thing [end of list]
Serious Physical Injury or Death: I’m Not Sure That Means What You Think It Means
So the only response available to Wilson at that point was deadly force, which he would recall, after mentally consulting the use of force triangle (as he did), to be appropriate in cases where the subject’s action risked “serious physical injury or death.” Assessing the situation, he found such a risk, but coincidentally, it doesn’t take much to scare this guy to death.
Holy cow, two hits in and Brown is just landing such devastating punches on Wilson that the man fears a third one might literally kill him? What kind of damage was this kid capable of???
A very close colleague of mine who is a doctor said this is technically known as a “boo-boo.” But this is the right side of Wilson’s face anyway—surely the left side of his face, by the driver’s side window, would have taken the brunt of the damage. I can’t find a picture of it online, but apparently Wilson was shown such a picture before the grand jury and explained to them what they were seeing.
So maybe something else made Wilson fear for serious physical injury or death? Something like… overpowering eyes?
If anything would justify the use of force, it’s a teen with a gorgon stare and a dim mak touch. Surely a trained law enforcement officer such as Wilson would exercise sober restraint in using his firearm, given the daytime neighborhood setting, right? Find out after the break!
INTERLUDE: Four Fictional Characters that Brown Resembled to Wilson (More than an Unarmed Teenager)
Wilson Literally Turned Away and Shot Out of His SUV “In the General Direction” of Brown
So the first round that Wilson managed to squeeze off passed through his vehicle’s doorframe before hitting Brown and splattering his blood onto Wilson’s hand. See transcript at 224:13–20. Recall from the previous section that Brown is some sort of hellspawn who gorges on bullets so that he can enbulken his massive frame and blaze across paved roads, leaving dust clouds in his wake. After being shot, Brown stepped back for a moment to absorb this first round into his body and convert it into fuel before returning towards the officer who had just shot him from one foot + one step away. 260:16–24.
At this point, Wilson turned away from where he was aiming and just fired his gun, kind of, just in the general direction of Brown without looking.
Why Not Just Wait for Backup? A Rashomon-Style Narrative Told by One Person
Wilson’s gambit worked, as when he returned his gaze to the direction in which he had been shooting his firearm, he found that Brown was running away so fast it left a dust cloud, like a cartoon Tasmanian Devil. See transcript at 226:10–13. Wilson radioed to report shots fired and request backup. At this point, Brown had a bullet lodged in him and he was running away from Wilson’s SUV. Since Brown no longer posed a physical threat, why not just wait for backup, instead of shooting at Brown ten more times and eventually killing him? Well, it depends on when you ask Wilson.
Wilson 1: I Had to Neutralize the Threat Before Unsuspecting Others Arrived
Had Wilson not gotten to Brown first, Brown might have overpowered another cop with his eyes, or worse — a boo boo.
Wilson 2: I Had to Wait for Unsuspecting Others to Arrive
On second thought, maybe Wilson should just stay put, keep himself safe and wait for someone else to take care of Brown.
Wilson 3: I Wanted to be Out of My Car in Case I Had to Run Away
Unless he needs to run away. But couldn’t Wilson get away from a guy on foot even more easily if he stayed in the car?
Wilson 4: It Never Entered My Mind to Run Away
My thoughts go out to the family of Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson, and my prayers go for federal charges.