There’s a new theory out about how Mike Brown, the unarmed Black teenager killed in Ferguson, MO last month, came to be shot multiple times and killed by White police officer Darren Wilson, and its getting some traction on social media. Kind of a lot of traction, actually. The story’s originator is one Shaun King of California, a self described activist and entrepreneur among other thing. In case you haven’t heard of King, and many probably haven’t, he’s a man of many talents and has developed a following as a social media presence who’s raised millions for charity and has been featured by big publications like the Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, and The Christian Post and is the founder of Courageous Church in Atlanta, GA and Twitchange.com. He also holds the dubious distinction of being one of the first hate crime victims in the state of Kentucky after nearly being beaten to death in 1995 by twelve men in Versailles, KY, which is literally about 20 minutes away from where I currently live in Lexington, KY.
I mention all this because I don’t want to give the impression I’m trying to tear King down, I’m not. But, at the same time, given his following, 74,900 Twitter followers, I don’t want his new theory to sit out there unopposed and be adopted as gospel by thousands of people rightly frustrated with the situation and events in Ferguson and the circumstances surrounding Mike Brown’s shooting. Clarity won’t come of that and justice won’t come of that. It’s the facts or nothing because without the facts we’re all just stumbling in the dark.
Shaun King’s theory hinges on evidence he has gathered through two sources, statements by witnesses and police officers regarding where people were during the Mike Brown incident as communicated by the media at large and location plotting using Google Maps to check those statements for accuracy. All his analysis and assertions were then put together by “Very White Guy Drew” on Storify.com so that they are compiled in an easily accessible way. You can find the whole thing here. Here’s an example, and I’ll do my best to accurately reflect King’s statements as we go along. This is the thesis of the entire theory:
Not implausible at all. I don’t think any serious person would say that the Ferguson police haven’t tried to downplay the incident to the best of their meager abilities and have stonewalled the Ferguson community every chance they’ve gotten. You’ll see, though, that this entire conspiracy hinges around a single number, 35. That’s the number of feet (roughly, the Chief hedges and says “about”) from which the Ferguson police department claim Mike Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson.
That’s important in a legal sense because 35 feet and closer is, as Mr. King rightly states, “closing distance.” It’s the distance from which a person can be on top of you and assaulting you in seconds. This is a situation that police train for and the exercise they use is called the Tueller Drill and was developed in the 80s. The principle behind it is that a person armed with a knife who is 21 feet away can close the distance and be stabbing you within 1.5 seconds. The difference between 35 feet and 21 feet is roughly, I think it’s safe to say, around .5 seconds although for someone of Brown’s size it may be a bit longer.
King asserts that this is the beginning of the coverup, that the police are laying the groundwork to protect officer Wilson by stating that Mike Brown was within officer Wilson’s danger zone. Here’s the statement as provided by King:
And here’s where Mr. King’s theory goes off the rails.
100 feet away.
King then attempts to triangulate the distance from which Mike Brown was shot by officer Wilson using landmarks such as Wilson’s SUV, one of Mike Brown’s sandals, his hat, and the final location of Mike Brown’s body. I’m posting the entire train of thought with King’s evidence so that it’s clear what I’m refuting and why.
2 Reasons That None Of This Proves What King Thinks It Proves
1. It Doesn’t Matter Where The SUV Is
To be clear on all this, I’m not necessarily disputing that the distance from officer Wilson’s SUV to the spot Mike Brown died is 35 feet. While a Google Earth or Google Maps measurement might be disputed, it’s probably right. But the problem for King’s theory has nothing to do with the distance from the SUV to Mike Brown’s body and everything to do with where officer Wilson was standing when he shot Brown. The SUV didn’t shoot anyone, it’s an inanimate object.
The frustrating thing is that King posts information on this but doesn’t seem to notice it. He cites the following as evidence of the 100 foot shooting distance.
Let me quote that out:
Then he saw Brown running away from a police car. Wilson trailed about 10 to 15 feet behind, gun in hand. About 90 feet away from the car, the worker said, Wilson fired another shot at Brown, whose back was turned.
The worker isn’t saying that Wilson shot Brown from the SUV, he says Wilson shot Brown from about 10 to 15 feet, very close. King uses this statement, as I said, that Wilson took a long range shot at Brown and killed him from distance. This is what happens when you don’t read closely. In his excitement at seemingly having discovered something, I’d warrant King rushed through the text here.
Wilson wasn’t at the SUV, he was pursuing Mike Brown. It’s right there. All the above triangulation, all the photos, they don’t matter if Darren Wilson isn’t standing at the SUV.
2. 100 Feet Is An Incredibly Long Pistol Shot
Even without the above witness’s claim regarding where Brown and Wilson were respective to one another this theory would be suspect. Mike Wilson was shot six times, all in the front. He wasn’t struck by any bullets from behind according to both an independent autopsy and the County autopsy. He was shot with a Sig Sauer .40 caliber handgun, model designation P229. Most people would just call them a Sig .40. It’s a larger caliber pistol (though absolutely law enforcement approved) and can hold between 10 and 12 rounds depending on the magazine used. Darren Wilson probably fired 11 shots, six of which struck Brown.
Now lets talk about pistol accuracy and distance. But first, another look at Mr. King’s map.
I have been shooting pistols since I was six years old. I personally own a Sig P229, although it’s in 9mm (different sized bullet), and I can tell you it is both a consistent and accurate gun. I’ve also taken federal small arms courses that focused on combat shooting with a pistol, specifically the Glock 9mm. I’m not saying I’m some deadshot marksman but I do know how to shoot and I am a good shot. As an example, the single best bit of pistol shooting I have ever done was with a Colt .45 at 25 yards (75 feet). This was done standing with nothing bracing the gun or me. I put six shots in roughly the same hole with a few stragglers within a quarter inch of that larger hole. I took around a minute or so to do this and focused on my breathing and balance to make it happen. I know that’s anecdotal but ask anyone who shoots pistols to pop off 11 quick rounds and hit a silhouette six times at 100 feet after a scuffle and they’ll tell you you’re crazy.
In officer Wilson’s case, regardless of what happened before he started shooting, he was, no doubt, pumped up with his adrenaline flowing from whatever altercation he and Brown had just been involved in. The first thing adrenaline does is destroy your fine motor movement. Adrenaline is designed for strength and endurance, not actions that require fine balance and smooth motions. What’s more, pistols like the one Wilson was using become increasing inaccurate as range increases and 100 feet is a very long shot to take once much less 11 times.
I find the assertion that Wilson could have hit Brown six times on the arm, chest, and head at 100 feet implausible nearly to the point of absurdity. If Darren Wilson had been able to rapidly make such a shot, not once but six times, then that would make him one of the best combat marksmen the world had ever seen. Barring that, it would have required Brown to simply stand there for seconds on end and let Darren Wilson focus on his breathing, calm himself, and shoot him over and over with literal seconds between each shot.
Mr. King simply doesn’t understand how difficult this would be. Hard doesn’t describe it.
This has been a huge news story. I’ve covered it repeatedly on TC, myself. The entire country has been exposed to a racial ugliness and tension that is still ready to explode. However, there is no cheat code to uncovering racial bias in Ferguson’s police department and conspiracy theories involving long distance trick shots being covered up by the police to prove Mike Brown was a threat don’t help the situation. They hurt the situation because they obfuscate the truth and the truth is that Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown from between 10 to 40 feet away from him after an altercation of some kind near Darren Wilson’s SUV. That’s the outline of what happened.
I’m not going to push the issue (nor do I have he resources to do so) but Shaun King should retract this theory over Twitter. Otherwise, he’s only playing into the wrong kind of anger, the kind that says all power is hidden, all authority means is lies, and nothing can be done. Get this back on track, Mr. King, and get focused on Ferguson’s overwhelming Black majority taking the administrative reigns in that city.