The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.
By now, we all know who Mike Brown is–the unarmed teen who was allegedly complying with the police when he was approached, but lost his life anyway. Brown’s death has widened the conversation around the value of Black lives in America. There have been many untimely deaths in the Black community at the hands of police or non-Black citizens. It’s discouraging.
It’s been reported that Black people make up 65% of Ferguson’s population, yet they accounted for 93% of arrests after traffic stops, 92% of searches and 80% of traffic stops in the city last year, according to a racial profiling report by the Missouri attorney general. Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely as Whites to be stopped by police even though police find contraband for 34% of Whites stopped, versus 22% of blacks, said Scott Decker, a criminologist on a team contracted by the attorney general’s office to compile the data.
The FBI, St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis County NAACP say they have begun their own investigations into the shooting death of Brown, but say the case will continue to move slowly due to the large number of witnesses each organization says they have to talk with. Sure, that’s what they’re telling us, but with the gruesome imagery of rioting, police barricades and tear gas clouds starting to flood the internet from on-the-ground reporting, we’re wondering what’s going to happen?
According to reports, police will not say how many times Brown was shot or whether the autopsy showed Brown was shot while he was on the ground, as a witness claims. It has not been determined if the officer who shot Brown broke the law and will be charged with a crime.
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