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OPINION - Ferguson: How did it start?

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I haven't blogged about the events in Ferguson, Missouri until now. This story entered the news cycle the day before my vacation. Details about the case continued to come out while I was away. Much of the information is conflicting. Since none of us were there, how can we possibly know what's true and what isn't?

Here is what I want to know, and will probably never find out: What was the very first interaction between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown ? Brown, a hulking black man of 300-pounds, was walking down the middle of a city street. White police officer Darren Wilson told him to get out of the road and onto the sidewalk.

I want to know exactly what was said, because that is the moment these events were set in motion.

Did Officer Wilson say, "Get out of the street and get onto the sidewalk"?

Or did he say, "Get the f--- out of the street!"

There's a huge difference. The former is regular police work; the kind of petty thing that law enforcement deals with every day. The latter is symptomatic of a belligerent, confrontational cop; a hothead with a badge who ran into someone who was too dumb to let an insult slide.

Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, was walking with him that day. He says the f-bomb was used. Johnson, by the way, is an undisputed liar. Other parts of his account have proven to be untrue. He claims Brown was shot in the back. The autopsy shows otherwise. He says there was no physical altercation between Brown and Wilson before the shooting. Wilson appears to have been injured in a fight. Johnson has filed a false police report before. He has a prior criminal record. Brown is a criminal too, having committed a strong-armed robbery a few minutes before his interaction with Officer Wilson.

Still, I have no way of knowing if Wilson was a respectful, professional cop or the kind of policeman who makes an already tough job harder by being foul-mouthed and rude.

My sinking suspicion, based solely on intuition, is that Wilson yelled and cursed at a man who then charged at him and became confrontational.

Even if that's true, it does not dismiss Michael Brown. There will always be rude people who cross our paths. Perhaps some of them are cops. Rude words do not justify an assault. And if Officer Wilson was assaulted, he has a right to defend himself. Reaching for a cop's weapon will spark a fight to the death. My belief is that this shooting was justified, even if Brown was dissed on the street.

But the story looks entirely different if this tale began with a cursing, combative policeman. As the Bible says, "a gentle word turns away wrath". And only God knows the answer to my question.

Chris Conley
8.21.14

IMAGE: Police officers patrol a street in Ferguson, Missouri August 11, 2014. REUTERS.