My open letter to city and police officials of Ferguson, Missouri, and their supporters

The Ugly Truth

We, the public, can handle the truth. So far, it’s hard to tell what the truth is because you don’t appear to want to tell it or show it. One way or another, the truth is going to be ugly.

If Michael Brown was the aggressor, and police officer Darren Wilson was perfectly justified in his actions, so be it. Sometimes, cops have no reasonable alternative than to shoot to kill; it’s an unavoidable, ugly fact of life.

If Wilson overreacted to a situation or lost his composure and angrily executed the unarmed Brown in cold blood while acting as a police officer, it’s doubly ugly because we can’t tolerate cops doing such things.

Based on when and where Brown was killed, the fact Brown was unarmed, as well as the number of shots fired by Wilson and where those shots were targeted, the shooting doesn’t seem to be proper to many of us.

Regardless of whether racism motivated Wilson in this case, we want answers, even if they are ugly. So far, you have shrouded the truth, and that kind of behavior looks suspicious. We need to see ourselves in the mirror as a society and see our government officials with transparency.

Race Matters, And You Don’t Get It

The fact Brown was a young, Black male matters. To deny race matters in this situation and coyly express frustration about race always being an issue is a disingenuous position, at best. It matters because racism is still powerful in America, even if pointy white sheets and burning crosses are now almost universally condemned.

Even if you don’t believe racism motivated the shooting, look at events in Ferguson and try to justify why the people shouldn’t have their concerns addressed. Even if the protesters ultimately are proven unjustified, their actions make very clear one point: they are very upset, and race is a very important factor in their anger. Even if you are perfectly innocent, playing dumb about race is farcical.

The longer you take to address their concerns, the worse you make the situation.

Sometimes, racism finds life in the denials of racism and the dismissive, condescending attitude toward every claim of racism. When a White cop unleashes a hail of bullets into an unarmed, young Black man, the question of racism should be addressed fully. If the truth is ugly, let’s see it. If race had nothing to do with it, and Brown was a bloodthirsty thug bent on killing a cop for doing his job, we can handle that ugly truth.

The “Race Card”

Race-baiting and “playing the race card” does exist, too, and it is sometimes ridiculous. Grandstanding charlatans sometimes “cry wolf” about racism without a shred of proof or good cause. Their credibility is justifiably in the gutter.

Throwing your unquestioning support to the “other” side without a shred of proof or good cause is as bad or worse behavior. The “White” side isn’t always right any more than the “Black” side is. The race-baiter is a charlatan. What’s your excuse for doing the same?

We may not want to admit it as a nation, but racism is absolutely a daily force in life, and young, Black males bear a disproportionate burden of that racism. If you deny it, your credibility is poor to non-existent.

The Shooting Itself

Shooting any man is ugly enough.  Shooting a man repeatedly is uglier. Shooting an unarmed man looks even worse.  Shooting an unarmed man repeatedly looks atrocious. For a police officer to discharge his pistol into an unarmed man to the tune of “at least six times”, including twice in the head, seems clearly excessive. Why was it necessary to shoot for his head? Why twice? Why didn’t Wilson shoot Brown several times in his legs instead? Was there good reason for Wilson’s actions? We still don’t know. It appears you don’t want us to know.

The circumstances leading up to the shooting are hotly debated by everyone. Regretfully, the debaters are largely arguing in a vacuum because YOU have not seen fit to tell them the truth.

Treatment of Brown’s Corpse

Leaving Brown’s dead body on public display in the street for four hours in summer heat looks extremely callous and indifferent to his human dignity. Humans in this country are rarely treated in such situations, and the fact no one in a position of authority or responsibility seemed to have the notion to remove the body is deeply offensive to many of those who are upset.

Your failure to treat Brown’s body with any reasonable degree of respect for his humanity tells many of us you have a pervasive, perhaps universal, disregard for the humanity of those you police. You happen to police a largely Black populace. You have regularly denied race was a factor, but it is hard to believe. Why should we believe your words when your behavior speaks volumes?

If you want those you police to have respect for you, earn it.

Propaganda On Your Part

Instead of dealing directly with the shooting and surrounding circumstances, you initially tried to assassinate Brown’s reputation and character by releasing a video which clearly implied Brown was a thug who got what he deserved. The implication was Wilson’s actions were affected by what was on the video.

When the truth surfaced shortly thereafter, your intent was exposed. Your innocuous explanation rang hollow, to put it kindly. The video showed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the shooting. You left the public with the question of why you chose to release that video, while simultaneously refusing to disclose virtually anything else. It was character assassination, pure and simple, and it was a vicious, deceptive effort to poison public opinion against Brown.

Releasing selective information favorable to your position is obviously calculated to undermine protesters’ concerns and adds gasoline to the fire because you make it clear you are unsympathetic and even hostile to their concerns. You seem to be doing your best to light a powder keg of discontent and prove it to be justified.

Before you knew the facts, you took the side of Wilson and actively demonstrated you could not be trusted. You showed your intent had nothing to do with telling the truth.

To play this propaganda game makes you look dirty and guilty, and it breeds contempt and mistrust.

You Actively Tried to Cover Up What You Were Doing About The Protests

It wasn’t bad enough for you to treat civilian protesters to a military-style show of force, as if they were an invading army; you had to compound your ill-advised decisions.

Uniformed, badged goons roughed up members of the press, specifically targeting them for assault, despite absolutely no cause.   Astonishingly, you did even worse.

After fighting to keep public records out of the hands of the public, some of those records give us an idea why you resisted as much as you did. Your own records now reveal your fervent desire to keep media helicopters from documenting your overreaction to protesters. The records document the fact you resorted to trickery to manipulate Federal authorities into helping you cover your tracks. Even if you were not doing something sinister, you are convincing in the part of villain.

Tell The Truth – FINALLY

I am familiar with how grand juries work, and it is easy for prosecutors to indict people, and it is often done promptly. The grand jury is tasked with finding probable cause, not beyond a reasonable doubt. If it takes the grand jury three months to find as little as probable cause, how can a jury at trial ever possibly find Wilson guilty, since the burden of proof is much greater?

Is there any evidence to charge Wilson with a crime? Is there evidence he clearly acted in a lawful manner?

I don’t know what the grand jury is reviewing, but probable cause, if it exists, should have been established by now, if it ever will be. If that’s the truth, SHOW US WHY. To drag it out all these months makes me think the grand jury has enough evidence to charge Wilson, but they are agonizingly attempting to find a way to avoid charging him.

Whatever happens, make it transparent. Hide nothing. We can handle the truth, even if it’s ugly.


About Phillip W. Goff

I'm Phillip Goff, and I've been an attorney for over 20 years in South Texas. I'm passionate and dedicated to serving client's interests and promoting freedom.
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