How Michael Brown Might Have Been Arrested Without the Use of Deadly Force

We are told that Wilson was unaware of Brown’s involvement in the convenience store robbery until he had already initiated contact with Brown and his companion, Dorian Johnson. Had Wilson had a partner, there would have been an extra set of ears in the car to monitor the radio traffic, perhaps allowing the officers to learn in advance of the initial contact that they were dealing with robbery suspects rather than simple traffic violators.

But putting that aside, even if our two hypothetical officers had not been apprised of the robbery, they might have taken an extra moment to discuss how they would handle a pedestrian stop of two men, one of whom weighed 300 lbs. And Michael Brown might have been more hesitant to challenge two officers than he was to take on Darren Wilson alone.

Now take a partner officer out of our scenario. How might an officer riding alone have handled the encounter differently? Wilson told the grand jury that his request to Brown and Johnson to get out of the street was met with expletive-laden defiance. Wilson then radioed for backup, as indeed he should have.  But rather than wait for that backup to arrive, he reversed his car and pulled within a few feet of Brown and Johnson, thus giving Brown the opportunity to attack him.  The more prudent course would have been to keep the two men under observation from the relative safety of the police car until other officers arrived, then initiate a stop. Had Brown and Johnson attempted to run away, the officers could have set up a containment perimeter and found them through a systematic search. And even if Brown and Johnson eluded the search, how many people living on Canfield Drive are 6-3 and 300 lbs.?

Again, none of this is to imply that the grand jury reached the wrong decision in declining to charge Darren Wilson. But he made the choice to put himself in a vulnerable position while confronting two men, one of whom outweighed him by 90 lbs. Wilson told George Stephanopoulos his conscience was clear, but I can’t imagine he doesn’t harbor some regret at having placed himself in so precarious a position.

Of course, since we’re indulging in counterfactuals, we can imagine that Michael Brown didn’t rob the store, didn’t walk down the middle of the street, got out of the street when told to, didn’t punch Officer Wilson and try to take his gun, didn’t turn around as he ran away, and did lie on the ground when ordered to.

Change any one of those decisions Brown made and he’d be alive today.

Also read: 

California Dem: ‘Is a Police Officer Supposed to Be the Jury and the Executioner?’