Two ships passing in the night: Ferguson’s Darren Wilson & Michael Brown:
A nation not engaged in conversation; not on listening or speaking terms
By Nate Thayer
August 22, 2014
A week ago, late Saturday night on August 16th, I finished a story that was the product of several days of research. I had been trying to figure out who was the human face behind the now iconic Ferguson police Sergeant Darren Wilson.
At the time, I found it remarkable that the eyes and political passions of the world were focused on, and standing in judgment of, a man that we, simultaneously, knew almost nothing of.
Millions were laser focused on the young, white, small town, American man who had shot and killed a young, black, small town, American man seven days earlier, and had sparked a gathering storm of racial strife not seen in the U.S. in two decades.
Sergeant Wilson is 28 years old.
I found it particularly intriguing that even a vague portrait–one built upon and strengthened with even a rough outline of biographical detail–was virtually invisible in this digital age of instant information.
I don’t know any 28-year old people who have no presence on social media; who have left virtually no digital fingerprints of who they are and what their life had consisted of; where an outline of their life is inaccessible; Who appeared to have, even gone to the effort to have, wiped the slate of public access to details of their human face, clean.
We knew then–and still know now–precious little about the white cop, sergeant Darren Wilson, who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”
It is remarkable, in the age of social media, that so few details have emerged about a man who stands front and center in the living room of millions as an incarnation of American racism; who had the world’s most powerful nation teetering on the precipice of falling into a cauldron of racial violence.
My article was empirical–a straight news story, absent of opinion or analysis.
It was a rather stilted compilation of data and facts that created a biographical framework for a man who had emerged from anonymity to represent the centerpiece of national polarization.
Then I was inundated with a reaction with, I am guessing, reflected the sentiments of a nation not on speaking terms; two ships passing in the night. Not engaged in conversation; not listening, not talking, and, certainly, not reading.
I found it strikingly depressing.
I long ago have developed an effective thick skin as a journalist, but I was unprepared for the level of polarization I witnessed and, indeed, was a target of. No one likes being the object of mean-spirited vitriol, but that wasn’t it. I was struck that not only had too many readers already come to a conclusion on the issue at hand and were unwilling to absorb new information that would alter or inform the rigid positions already established.
Mainly, I was struck, once again, by the steep trajectory that the writings of news journalist’s has taken, now assumed to reflect a political agenda or ideological opinion of the author. The assumption that one accumulates–selectively includes, discards, and cherry picks–pertinent facts to fit a predetermined ideological or political opinion or conclusion.
That straight news has become a target of combat rather than a means of information.
This has occupied more than its preferred share of my thoughts this last week. So I am reprinting some of the commentary and reaction below, followed by the news article that elicited them.
Below are comments to the article “Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson reveals why he shot Missouri black teenager: Who is the white guy who shot the black teenager in Missouri?”
“Nate – I believe you used the word “peripatetic” in an attempt to show linguistic intelligence, however you failed. Your use of the word was incorrect. The word “peripatetic” refers to traveling/moving from place to place in regard to employment. Mr. Wilson was a child attending school at the time – it does not apply. A more accurate word (and one not so obviously self-promoting) would have been “transient.””
“This is the radio interview that everyone says matches up to Officer Wilson’s story? And the Police Department says the interview is accurate? It isn’t accurate in any sense except he is sticking to the story, and “Josie” never claims to have been at the scene – she is just retelling his version of events nine days later, after Wilson and Spradling have had some time to co-conspire to pervert justice.
Police are allowed to lie, and trained to lie, and are supposed to know the very limited times the are not allowed to lie, one being to a police investigator and another being to a judge. But who watches the watchers, and who investigates the police?
On a completely unrelated question, would you rather take a few hits to the face, or face murder charges and cost yourself and your police department employer employer a world of additional lawsuits?”
“Kill the dam niggers” wrote:
“Shoot the fuckin niggers these monkeys act like animals stop bitching if a nigger killed a nigger they won’t be rioting like they are now”
don wrote: “He should be arrested and charged with first degree murder!”
and then don wrote again: “He may have suffered brain dammage(sic) similar to some of which his mother had and spapped(sic) after the blk guy pushed him. I’ve seen cops do just that.”
“why zee” wrote:
“why not also look into the background of MB ? from what little i’ve seen on internet, his facebook page & rap “songs” are thug city this information is just as relevant to this situation as the officers background”
“Tomas Pajaros” wrote:
“ST. LOUIS • Police said Sunday they are continuing to investigate the fatal shooting in the Central West End of a former St. Louis University volleyball player who was visiting St. Louis for an annual alumni game.
Megan Boken, 23, was found about 2:20 p.m. Saturday at Maryland and Taylor avenues with gunshot wounds to her neck and chest, said St. Louis Police Sgt. Roger Engelhardt. She was taken to Barnes Jewish Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“Megan was a wonderful and beautiful human being loved by everyone she met. The family and the community are devastated by this senseless tragedy.
Witnesses told police they saw a man open the door to the vehicle.
The shooter was seen firing two shots into the vehicle before leaving the scene, police said. He left before police arrived. He was described as a black man believed to be in his mid-20s, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a thin build and short hair.
“Daniela Amortegui” wrote:
“That is absolutely ridiculous. We saw what happened in the Trayvon Martin case. Furthermore you can look at other cases where the officers have been dismissed and still hold a high position in the workforce.
I think if this story was true there would be hard evidence to support such case i.e. finger prints on the car, and I believe that all vehicles have cameras in them so they should be able to hear the struggle at least. It also seems a bit odd that this story was told over the radio which could very well jeopardize his case.”
–We can’t hold black people to the same standards as everyone else because they are inferior.
–We can hold black people to the same standards as everyone else because they are not inferior.
“[email protected]” wrote:
“Helluva “journaliust” who cannot even spell Sergeant.”
“If the Darren Wilson in this case is 100% Correct and did everything according to Police Procedure Will he Have to go down as a Sacrificial Lamb Because of All the Protesting that has Received a Tremendous amount of attention , Does this Officer even if Right does He have to go Down if he did his job Correctly ? Just Your Opinions Please. I feel no matter what Darren Wilson if he was in the Right Has NO CHANCE . Thank you .”
Below is the entire, un-redacted story, reprinted that elicited the above responses:
Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson reveals why he shot Missouri black teenager
Who is the white guy who shot the black teenager in Missouri?
By Nate Thayer
August 16, 2014
We know precious little about the white cop, sergeant Darren Wilson, who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
It is remarkable, in the age of social media, that so few details have emerged about the man who stands front and center in the living room of millions as an incarnation of American racism.
There are no publicly available photos of Wilson. There are no detailed versions of what happened that day from Wilson or his allies. There are no lawyers, no union representatives, no officials from the city of Ferguson, no friends or family, which have publicly said anything about the man behind the cop, Darren Wilson.
We do not know the human story of the small town white cop who is being vilified worldwide as a racist. Nor do we know his version of events of what transpired.
But we do know this: Black teenager Michael Brown is dead and officer Darren Wilson’s life will never be the same, regardless of the facts.
Officer Wilson represents a legitimate something. But that doesn’t mean he is that same something.
Who is officer Darren Wilson?
On Monday, the morning after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, Wilson’s father, John Wilson, posted a Facebook status message: “Dear FB friends, Our family is in need for prayers to be sent up for a family member. Circumstances do not allow for us to say anything further. Please pray with our family in mind. Put a covering of protection over our family member please.”
Officer Wilson’s father’s Facebook account has since been shut down.
Here is what we do know about Sergeant Darren Wilson. He is a white American citizen. Public records show Darren Wilson to be now 28 years old.
Wilson has a sister and a half-brother. His father, John Wilson, lives in St Peters, Missouri, and runs a landscaping business. Darren Wilson’s mother, Tonya Durso, died when Wilson was 16 and she was 35. Her life was not going well.
I have the name and phone numbers and addresses of his siblings, his step father, his stepmother, his ex-wife, his grandparents, and others, along with their places of work, but frankly, I don’t feel comfortable, nor do I feel it relevant, to make them public and ruin their lives.
Officer Darren Wilson grew up a peripatetic life but emerged out of St Peters, Missouri, a largely white suburb of St Louis, where his father still lives. In 2010, St. Peters was 91.7% white and only 3.7% black.
Officer Wilson was an honor roll student at St. Charles High School in 9th and 10th grade, during a period of considerable family turmoil when his mother experienced major legal difficulties.
He has worked as a police officer, since the age of 22, for the past six years–in Ferguson for four years and for two years previously as an officer in the nearby Jennings, Missouri police department. Wilson has no prior disciplinary record and was recognized for “extraordinary effort in the line of duty” in February.
Public records show Wilson was divorced last year in St. Charles County, Missouri after two years of marriage.
Darren Wilson’s family and loved one’s, like the Michael Brown’s of Ferguson and beyond, deserve to be free of fear.
He now lives with a fellow Ferguson police officer, Barbara Spradling, in Crestwood, Missouri, a town of 11,000 people about 18 miles southwest of overwhelmingly black Ferguson. Crestwood, according to public records, is 94 per cent white and 1.6 per cent black.
His mother, Tonya Durso, had a considerable history of difficulties. She had three children by two different fathers.
While it may seem unseemly to air the family laundry in public for the same reasons that people object to the release of selective information regarding Michael Brown, regardless, here are some facts about officer Wilson’s impressionable years when he was the age of Michael Brown.
Perhaps it will allow for those necessary gray areas in all of our lives to position themselves in the forefront of this national debacle, before we personalize the debate of the killing in Ferguson.
According to public records, in 1998 Wilson’s mother pleaded guilty to six counts of forgery and one count of stealing at the 11th Judicial Court in St Louis.
She was convicted of financial crimes, and at the time of her death in 2002, she was on parole from Washington County, Missouri. At the time of her death, she stood accused of similar crimes– stealing people’s identities, taking out fraudulent loans, credit card debt, and other scams bilking people out of substantial sums of money when.
She did not serve any time in jail, according to Missouri public records. But she did declare bankruptcy in October 2002, and within weeks, she was dead, on November 18th of that year. At the time of her death, she was under investigation for similar offenses.
This is the only speculation in this article: There are suggestions that Officer Wilson’s mother’s life was so tragic, when the police officer was 16 years old, that she killed herself.
Ferguson, Missouri, where Darren Wilson works, has very different racial demographics than where officer Wilson grew up or lives now.
In 1990, Ferguson was 73.8% white and only 25.1% black, but by the time Wilson began working in Ferguson in 2010, the white population had plummeted to 29.3% while the black population sharply increased to 67.4%.
Of the 52 members of the Ferguson police force, only 3 are black.
On Friday, officer Wilson’s girlfriend, fellow Ferguson police officer Barbara Spradling, either personally called in or authorized the public version of Ferguson police Sergeant Darren Wilson’s story of what happened around noon on August 9, 2014.
A caller to the “The Dana Show: The Conservative Alternative” FMNewsTalk 97.1, St. Louis, Missouri Friday, on Friday August 15, 2014 has been identified as being phoned in from telephone numbers associated with officer Wilson.
Here is the verbatim transcript:
The Dana Show: I want to go to the phones and take, and I don’t know, this is a–the person on the line. It says ‘Josie’ on my call screener, but she has been identified, and I had our call-screener talking to her, is a friend of Darren Wilson, the officer that was involved with this. Good afternoon to you. Thanks for calling in.
“Friend” of Ferguson Police Sgt. Darren Wilson: Thanks you very much
The Dana Show: So you said you are a friend of the officer that was identified by the police as being involved in the Michael Brown situation. Give me your aspect on this because now your friend’s name, this officer’s name, is out there. Talk a little bit to this.
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: Okay. Well it has been really, really hard to be quiet because I do know his version of the story and I haven’t, it seems like everyone only talking about the other side and I understand they haven’t really gotten to hear this side, um, and I have been afraid to say anything. I think we all are. All his friend and family but i just feel like I just need to put out there his version of events so people can consider them as the truth, if nothing else.”
The Dana Show: OK
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: You want me to kinda run down…I mean….
The Dana Show: Yes, yes, absolutely
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: Okay. So he said that they, you know, um, they were walking in the middle of the street and he rolled his window down and, you know, said “Come on guys out of the street.”
Um, they refused to, and were yelling back and saying: “We are almost where we are going.”
There was some cussing involved, um, and then he just kept rolling up and he pulled over, and I believe, at that point, he called for a backup but I am not sure.
But I know he pulled up ahead of them and he was watching them and then gets the call-in that there was a strong-arm robbery, and they get the description, and he was looking at them and they got something in their hands that looks like it could be, what, you know, those cigars or whatever, so he goes in reverse back to them and tries to get out of his car and they slam his door shut violently–I think he said Michael did–then he opened his car again and tries to get out. and as he stands up, Michael just bum rushes him, just shoves him back into the car, and punches him in the face, and then of course Darren grabs for his gun. Michael grabs the gun. At one point he has the gun totally turned against his hip and Darren, you know, shoves it away and the gun goes off.
Well then Michael takes off with his friend and he gets about 35 feet away and, um, you know, Darren–of course protocol is to pursue–so he stands up and yells: “Freeze!”
Um, Michael and his friend turn around and Michael starts taunting him: “Oh what are you going to do about it?”, you know, “You are not going to shoot me!”
And then, he said, all of a sudden he just started to bum rush him. He just started coming at him full speed, and so he just started shooting, and he just kept coming. So he really thinks he was on something, um, because he just kept coming. It was unbelievable.
And then–so he finally ended up, the final shot was in the forehead, and then he fell about 2 or 3 feet in front of the officer. So that is why the stories are going around that “Oh, he was shot execution style.” I think some people saw, you know, the shots to his head. Of course ballistics will prove he wasn’t shot in the back like the other people are saying that quote unquote when this (sic). But that’s, um, that is his version of what happened.
The Dana Show: So can I ask how did you come by this information, is this something that you, did you have discussions with the family? How did you come to know the details of it?
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: Um, it was with his, um, significant other who told me. It was before it was such a huge, you know. It was Sunday night, before the riots, so, you know, it was when they were still on Facebook and everyone was still talking, you know, it was kinda an open discussion, about at that point, and of course, we had no idea it would turn into this.
The Dana Show: Right. Is his family, are they in town? Have they left town?
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: They have not been in contact with anyone since Tuesday morning
The Dana Show: I appreciate you calling in and giving that perspective. Thank you so much
Sgt. Wilson “Friend”: Yes. Thank you.
The Dana Show: That individual is a person who claims they are friends with the officer involved in the Mike Brown shooting, Darren Wilson, so again, when the investigation is concluded and more details are released–and earlier this morning the incident report was released–all of that is going to come out……….That was an interesting account. And I don’t know, you know that caller said they were friends with Darren Wilson and speaking to their significant other and that was how she got those details. You always have to be very careful in situations like that about, you don’t want to say that definitely was a friend, or it was definitely, but, it will be interesting to see, if when the investigation concludes, if all those details that she just gave matches up with what comes out of the investigation……”
There are a lot of discrepancies between the account of officer Wilson and eyewitnesses’ to the shooting. Speculation is rampant. We will know the truth eventually, despite the efforts of interested parties to obfuscate them to manipulate popular opinion.