I was going to avoid talking about last Wednesday, but after spending a little too much time on Twitter reading the mind numbingly stupid conspiracy theories that have come up in reference to the shootings, I changed my mind. One particularly humorous set of comments below:
Since Wednesday, I have heard theories including but not limited to:
-We shot at ourselves to drum up sympathy.
-The KKK shot the police in order to demonize protesters.
-White supremacists shot at the protesters, missed, and hit the police instead.
-The entire event is a hoax and no one was injured. Pictures of riot helmets with blood on them are doctored images.
Theories aside, here’s what really happened:
Ferguson is cyclical. Almost all of the worst nights of rioting started with a code 1000 called sometime between 2030 and 2130. August 10th started this way. August 17th started this way. November 24th started this way, aided by Bob McCulloch’s corresponding release of the Grand Jury announcement. Incidentally, I started my shift on 3-11-15, walking into the station a little early around 2030-2045.
I was in a pretty damn good mood. I had managed to work out in the morning and go for a jog in the early afternoon after waking up. I had enough time left over to cook my dinner and have a protein shake before I left the house. Most importantly, it was around sixty-five / seventy degrees outside and was the first day in months I had gone into work without wearing a jacket or coat. I’ve always suspected I’m somewhat seasonally affective.
Anyway, I went through my pre-work ritual of checking out a radio and then glancing through the usual suspects in Twitter to see if there was anything planned of which I should be aware. I literally had enough time to clip on the radio, turn the button hearing the tell-tale “wheep wheep” noise that indicates that the battery was charged. I immediately caught the tail end of the following transmission:
“-ne-thousand. Respond to the front of the Ferguson Police Department.”
It didn’t take much deductive reasoning to figure out that “-ne-thousand” had to be Code One-Thousand, so I went and informed the evening supervisor of what was going on. With a number of local figures deciding to step down, no one was prepared for any problems when it seemed like the protesters were actually having demands met.
Moments later, I was heading off to Ferguson with a helmet and my riot bag. I was fortunate that I remembered to put my riot bag back in my car because I had removed it from its usual place when I was getting ready to go to a training in Creve Coeur earlier in the week. The training was in reference to Code 1000’s of all things. We literally had not made it a week before the training was utterly and depressingly relevant.
As I continued north on S. Florissant, looking for the side streets that would take me behind the police department, I heard radio traffic indicating that a police car from a neighboring municipality was being swarmed by protesters and there was still an officer inside the vehicle. I decided to detour to his location first to make sure he was alright before continuing the rest of the way to the police department which was now obscured from my location by about two hundred bodies.
Fortunately, the crowd was merely surrounding the car. A few were banging on the windows but no one was actively trying to make entry to the car, pulling on doors, or trying to break the windows. After a tense few moments, space opened up behind the vehicle and he was able to back out. They certainly weren’t about to yield to his emergency lights and let him drive the rest of the way to the front of the police department.
After this, we drove the back way to the rear of the fire department next door and parked our cars before walking across the parking lot that separated the fire and police departments. An older Ferguson sergeant with a gray mustache came up and informed us that he wanted each of us to tap a Ferguson officer who was on the line on the shoulder and replace them. His stated reasoning was that with us here, they now had enough manpower to use the Ferguson officers as an arrest team.
I don’t think I made a face, but I may have done so unconsciously at the notion of being a human shield for the Ferguson Police. Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am all for standing on the line with them, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, all day if necessary, so that they didn’t have to risk their lives against an angry out-of-control citizenry alone. However, taking the brunt of that assault in the various forms it had historically taken (and knowing now in hindsight what it would take that night) I wasn’t exactly alright with them taking up the rear.
Anyway, if I didn’t make a face, the sergeant himself apparently realized what he was suggesting sounded bad because he immediately clarified it with the addition, “That way if we have to go hands on with anyone, make any arrests, you guys don’t have to take any reports and we can keep it all in house.” It was a fair point, but one he seemed to bring up after the fact.
So, once again, I found myself on the skirmish line staring into an angry populace. I immediately had some Mensa candidate standing across from me yelling through a megaphone, deafening and hurting my ears. At some point he got arrested but not before the megaphone passed to someone else. Still, the other protesters as a whole were actively straddling the line between acceptable and unacceptable.
Once again, they had been allowed to block the entrance to the police department parking lot and the street. This is a violation of the Missouri state statute on Peace Disturbance. RSMO 574.010, and specifically section 2, states “…in a public place or on private property of another without consent and purposely causes inconvenience to another person or persons by unreasonably and physically obstructing:
(a) Vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
(b) The free ingress or egress to or from a public or private place.”
Secondly, more than once, the crowd swarmed a vehicle that tried to pass. The protesters would let those drivers who honked their horn or rolled down their windows while blasting NWA’s “Fuck the Poh-lice” pass with impunity. Typically these vehicles were driven by black males. Anyone else who simply just tried to drive through was blocked, which consequently might have had something to do with opting not to roll their windows down and more often than not seemed to pertain only to white drivers. An older white woman in a sedan started crying at one point when she was surrounded, which the protesters thought was supremely funny.
Why the state statute, RSMO 565.120, for Felonious Restraint which states:
“A person commits the crime of felonious restraint if he knowingly restrains another unlawfully and without consent so as to interfere substantially with his liberty and exposes him to a substantial risk of serious physical injury,”
…wasn’t enforced in reference to this blatant crime, I will never know. Ferguson Police were still seemingly in charge of the scene (specifically the Sergeant I referenced earlier) though there were a number of county white shirts (supervisors) present.
Considering that the Ferguson Chief of Police, Tom Jackson, had finally resigned, what the crowd wound up to be protesting was humorously stupid. This entire ordeal was still about Michael Brown and the discredited “hands up” narrative. The DOJ was referenced repeatedly and used as evidence that the police department was guilty of being racist. Though apparently no one got the memo that the same DOJ report they were using as evidence discredited the more heartfelt, but baseless chants, regarding our supposed complicity in murdering innocent black boys. Granted, if you’ve read my other posts, it’s clear to me now that the Darren Wilson side of the report was written by the FBI, but it’s not as though any of these people were interested in any factual argument.
To be clear, the following words were not ever used during the protests on Wednesday:
As if there needed to be further evidence that the crowd lacked the reading comprehension to understand the DOJ report, instead the words used by the crowd revolved around the following:
- Hands up, don’t shoot
- Mike Brown
- Fight back
Admittedly “Oppression” could factor into the discussion of municipal court reform and racial bias, but that word was the extent of the protesters’ focus on the topic. Despite arguments in the media that racial disparities in police practices and municipal court reform are the much bigger issues important to the Ferguson Protesters, the reality has continued to be about the utterly stupid narrative that police are actively running around murdering black people for literally no reason. The notion that “you killing us” has continued to be what’s important and to be fair, if true, that argument is much more compelling than racial disparity in traffic stops and PED (pedestrian) checks.
To support this message, the usual suspects were out in force. Joshua Williams, the arsonist who tried to burn down the gas station in Berkeley and bragged on Twitter about burning down businesses on W. Florissant after the Grand Jury, was running around enjoying freedom having apparently bonded out of jail on those charges. Jamell Spann showed up briefly to remind us that he suffers from mental illness by making some nonsensical comment about Tom Cruise and how us officers should convert to Scientology for some reason.
Another protester with whom I wasn’t familiar, followed up Jamell’s line with something about how we were all going to hell anyway because we worshiped “White Jesus.” She had on a black hoodie with a phrase referencing godmother of Tupac and noted cop killer, “Assata taught me.”
Even Zaki Baruti appeared for approximately five minutes, long enough to pretend he was still relevant to a younger movement that couldn’t care less about him.
Meanwhile, Keith Rose, Sean Jordan, and DeRay were running around harassing officers on the line based upon the same name tag idiocy from months earlier. A stoic St. Ann cop in particular became the focus of Rose while the protester stood by with a clipboard demanding to know who the officer was and reciting demands all starting with variations of “the DOJ” this, or “the DOJ” that, as if he was their representative. Never mind that St. Ann is not under a consent decree with the DOJ and they have no authority over their name tag policy. If anyone disputes that, they can feel free to cite applicable federal law and prove me wrong.
Ferguson Police had us push the skirmish line across the street more than once in order to clear the roadway. However, afterward they always had us fall back to where we had been originally, which made the entire action an exercise in futility since the crowd inevitably followed us back except now they were even more wound up than before.
Tef Poe became enraged during one of these drives yelling all sorts of threatening speech through crooked teeth after someone pushed his little brother who was at the front of the protesters line when they locked arms. Of course, his language was much easier to listen to when he was from the safety of two or three rows back from the front. I wonder how his violent talk and diverse use of the term “mother fucker” would have come out if he was wearing the white cardigan that he wore in Geneva, Switzerland while arguing that the police were too violent.
After one of the drives forward across the street, a number of people locked arms between us and the larger group of protesters. The same woman who had been discussing “White Jesus” earlier was amongst this group and kept repeating almost lyrically, “We are moth——ers. We are sis—–ters. We are daugh——ters. We are moth——ers. We are sis——ters. We are daugh——-ters.” She reeked of alcohol., which is presumably due to this. Another new face whom I didn’t recognize from before was a white college aged male with a cardboard sign that read, “James Knowles cries after sex.” In fact there were a number of various aged white people sprinkled throughout the group on Wednesday struggling to stand out even if they did so just by being in the minority. One older white male in particular with white hair and glasses kept trying too hard to be the center of attention. He could even be heard in the immediate aftermath of the video footage of the shooting that came later saying, “Acknowledgement nine months ago would have kept that from happening!” He is pictured below which admittedly is from the prayer service on Thursday and not from Wednesday. After the second drive across the street and the second failed attempt at trying to organize an arrest attempt by the Ferguson officers on various instigators, any communication from whomever was supposed to be in charge completely broke down. At one point, an individual collapsed seemingly from heat stroke. In response, a number of individuals swarmed him while opening up their med kits that consisted of maalox and bottles of water. An officer further down the line actually flagged down a protester to see if the man needed an ambulance to which they said he declined, but that didn’t stop the others from making a big production out of carrying him to safety. Presumably this was meant for the optics of making us look like we didn’t care.
It wasn’t long after the collapsed man left, that a number of seemingly random out-and-out brawls started breaking out throughout the crowd. These began as shoving matches and escalated into out and out brawls with individuals throwing haymakers at each other and the crowd swelling to surround these groups of people. Most of us were looking back to the supervisors standing behind the line trying to get their attention, since there was no order for us to move into the crowd and break up these fights. After the fights had been going on for a while and literally moved from one part of S. Florissant south of the police department to the other side north of the fire department, finally a county supervisor in a white shirt came over, but all he did was stare into the crowd.
Noted preacher, Renita Lamkin stood in front of us with her hands out to her sides and kept repeating through her high pitched, shrill, condescending voice, “This is a family matter! They’re handling it! They’re handling it!” Judge for yourself:
Anyway, when the fights started breaking out, a number of protesters left the scene on their own. After a while, the crowd started to shrink dramatically in the hour or so that followed. Eventually, a number of officers were told they could leave and head back to their venues and it seemed as though the night was almost over. As things were at their most peaceful, two or three shots suddenly went off in the area.
However, the gunshots sounded different from gunfire I’m familiar with. To me it sounded like riverfront fireworks, not firecrackers, but I acknowledge this may have had something to do with the acoustics of the two buildings we were between.
I jumped at the noise, and it took me a few seconds to realize what had actually happened. When radio traffic finally transmitted through my microphone, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Officer down!” everything became sickeningly real. An injured officer who was writhing in pain was drug behind a van by other officers.
As I ran to get behind the van that everyone else was crouched down taking cover behind, I passed an individual who looked like he had blood spatter on his face, specifically his cheek bone. He moved past me briskly but made no indication that he was injured. It certainly didn’t occur to me that he was the second victim and what I had thought was blood spatter was actually an entrance wound.
The scene immediately afterward was chaos. Officers from other agencies flooded S. Florissant, in reference to the “Officer in Need of Aid call.” Eventually, someone got on the radio and had to instruct anyone else arriving to stay off of the main stretch because at this point these officers were potentially in the line of fire and if they bunched up, would make it impossible for ambulances to come and go.
There was some confusion on the number of victims with a few of us trying to determine where the second victim was and if they were still on the ground somewhere beyond us, still in danger, and still in need of medical attention. It was only as someone else mentioned that the second victim had been shot in the face that I realized that the man I had passed moments earlier was the person we were missing. A few officers went off back behind the building in search of that officer.
So there I was, crouched down, gun drawn, waiting to see if there would be more gunfire from this apparent sniper somewhere in the distance. As the minutes drug on, I noticed that there was a quarter sized droplet of blood on the ground near my knee. More and more officers kept arriving. Others left to retrieve AR’s and Shotguns from their cars.
All we could do in the interim was keep our guns trained in the direction the shots had come from, specifically on a hill off of Tiffen where we had been told witnesses had seen muzzle flashes. I didn’t see where the shots came from so I can’t confirm that this was accurate. I did know that there were other officers in the area behind the skirmish line who probably would have been hit if, for example, the shots had come from behind the police department parking lot. After about ten to fifteen minutes, and a search party that had gone up onto the hill in question, it became clear that the gunman was probably long gone.
Other officers helped to tape off a crime scene and prevent the remaining protesters from leaving. The majority of us stayed where we were, most of us with our guns still out, just in case.
At some point, a white female protester in a wheel chair named Heather (pictured above earlier in the night) had her cell phone seized as evidence. She had been live streaming the entire time with her phone attached to a selfie-stick. I’m not really familiar with her so I don’t know what her actual medical condition is, but I do know that I saw her earlier rolling around pushing her chair with her legs. Later on someone was pushing her and her chair out of the area seemingly in reference to radio traffic that said something to the effect of, “Make sure you get the girl in the wheelchair’s phone. It live streamed the whole thing.”
A group of officers moved to intercept them. After her phone was taken, she kept periodically yelling across the street about how “[County Police] is destroying evidence!” Since Wednesday, this absurd conclusion has been used by some as proof that we don’t really want to find out who was responsible. It’s interesting to note that the footage that has been circulating for the last several days (which shows the moment of the gunfire but little else) in the media is supposedly this destroyed evidence.
Also, the older white individual who I referenced earlier about the “acknowledgment nine months ago” comment kept complaining periodically yelling across the street demanding that someone come interview him already so that he could leave in the most…
Well, I’ve got a lot of adjectives for his tone, but none that I’d be able to consider professional.
The last several days have seen a contortionist level of mental gymnastics by the Ferguson Twitter Brigade to do everything in their power to blame the gunfire on someone with no connection to their movement. Others have out and out said that the news of the two shot officers is good news. A few others have criticized the violence but been quick to try and act like this is the first time there has ever been violence directed at the police since the protests started in August. I find myself reviewing footage from August, September, and November while reflecting on the violence I witnessed at the hands of “peaceful protesters” and continue shaking my head.
I can agree with the protesters on one thing and one thing only.
This is going to be a long summer.