Ferguson County, Missouri has been in the news consistently for the past eight months. Everything from the initial news reports about Michael Brown’s shooting to reports of looters and protesters throughout the country. Ferguson, a county in the city of St. Louis, has been the epicenter for racially provoked riots, protests, and news.

As someone who lives in St. Louis and has endured this issue more than the average citizen, I hope this article will be the most comprehensive and eye-opening article you will read about Ferguson.

The Truth About the Shooting

According to the Department of Justice’s investigation into the shooting, “The encounter between Wilson and Brown took place over an approximately two-minute period of time at about noon on August 9, 2014”. Earlier in the day, Brown had recently been involved in a robbery at a local Quiktrip: surveillance video shows Brown stealing cigarillos and then shoving the store clerk to the side. The DOJ report details that Wilson saw Brown and his friend walking down the street and decided to stop them because Wilson “suspected that Brown and Witness 101 were involved in the incident at Ferguson Market based on the descriptions he heard on the radio and the cigarillos in Brown’s hands.”

The moments leading up to the shooting, according to the same DOJ report, were a flurry of activity.  Wilson “attempted to open the driver’s door of the SUV to exit his vehicle, but… the door came into contact with Brown’s body and either rebounded closed or Brown pushed it closed.” Brown then reached for Wilson’s firearm inside the SUV. A shot was fired, hitting Brown in the right hand. Also, according to the DOJ, “Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm.” Both DNA and other corroborating evidence supports Officer Wilson’s story that Brown was reaching for his gun.

“Witness 44” stated in an interview that, “It was like he was fighting with him almost. He came around to the driver’s side and all you saw was his hands goin’ in and out of the car. And then you heard the first pop.” This interview, conducted in August of 2014, as well as reports from several other witnesses corroborate the fight narrative.

Now here is where the story is muddied with ambiguity: there are contrasting witness reports and testimonies as to what happened after the assault on Wilson. The narrative that swept the nation directly after the incident was that Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when Wilson shot and killed him.

However, a quick look at the autopsy report and credible witnesses can disprove the “hands up” rumors very quickly.  The autopsy report details every gunshot wound that Brown sustained. Every shot that entered Brown’s body entered on the ventral (front) side of his body, implying that he didn’t have his back to Wilson when he was shot. It continues, reporting that “There is a gunshot entrance wound of the dorsal right forearm and there is a gunshot exit wound on the medial ventral right forearm.” When a body is considered to be in its anatomical position, the palms are facing forward so that the inside of the forearm is considered ventral (front) and the top of the forearm is considered dorsal (back). This means that Brown was running towards Wilson and pumping his arm when the bullet entered and exited his forearm. The shot pattern visualizes this argument and proves Brown was advancing on Wilson–not surrendering–when he was killed.

The DOJ report also states that Brown was advancing on Wilson at the time he was killed.

Brown ran at least 180 feet away from the SUV, as verified by the location of bloodstains on the roadway, which DNA analysis confirms was Brown’s blood. Brown then turned around and came back toward Wilson, falling to his death approximately 21.6 feet west of the blood in the roadway. Several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson. According to these witnesses, who are corroborated by blood evidence in the roadway, as Brown continued to move toward Wilson, Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to the ground.

Some people said that Brown could have been stopped with non-lethal force or other means of detainment. Brown was a very large man: according to the autopsy, “the body is approximately 77 inches in length and weighs 289 pounds.” There is no way a 6’3″, 289 pound man charging full speed can be stopped with non-lethal force before he reaches the officer. Some activists tried–and failed–a police test that places the participant in similar do-or-die situations, giving credence to Wilson’s statements.

Other evidence also challenges claims of Brown’s innocence. Toxicology reports revealed the presence of cannabinoids in Brown’s blood. According to a Truth Revolt video featuring Ben Shapiro, Brown had been rapping and producing songs with very violent lyrics. The song is on SoundCloud and features lyrics like “my favorite part is when the body hits the ground.”

The Aftermath for St. Louis

After the shooting, media outlets and pundits began reporting an initial sequence of what happened that August day. Most of the reports said that Brown, unarmed, was shot from behind with his hands up. The country exploded in outrage over the narrative of an evil white cop that gunned down an innocent unarmed black teen. Race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were quick to demonize Wilson, giving credibility to the news networks that reported based on speculation and not facts.

Protesters marched to the streets of Ferguson. The protests routinely got out of control and were corralled with riot police, tear gas, and curfews. Ferguson was all over the news, and my hometown was soon being broadcasted all over the United States. Looters were out in droves, destroying the local Quiktrip and looting other businesses. After the initial rioting and looting, St. Louis calmed down a little bit until the Grand Jury decision came out.

The Grand Jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson on November 24th at around 9:15 pm, which prompted another wave of violent protests. The road that runs horizontal to the municipal court was blocked due to people stopping their cars to protest. The protests quickly gained steam and turned violent. Several reporters were attacked and injured by protesters. Looters were interviewed and some of their answers to questions about race included, “black people can’t be racist” and “white people are the devil”. Police cars were overturned and shots were fired. The list of businesses damaged or destroyed in the protests is expansive. Some of the businesses will never open their doors again. The aftermath truly shows the devastating effects of these riots. However, there was a shining moment for St. Louis in the wake of the riots. A local bakery that was vandalized during the protests received over $200,000 in donations to re-open her bakery.

For many people, the rioting in Ferguson ended shortly after the Grand Jury’s decision.  Many news stories, like this one, end there. However, those of us who live in and around St. Louis are still dealing with the aftermath.

The protests have continued for months–even as recently as last month. Roads were consistently shut down in all areas of St. Louis, making travel horrendous. Malls were invaded by protesters participating in “Die-Ins.” The mantra “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” (which we now know was based on false information) was shouted in unending protests. Celebrities joined in on the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement, including several St. Louis Rams players who ran through the tunnel and on to the field with their hands up.

Because of Ferguson, all of St. Louis was grouped into one county and seen as a racial war zone. St. Louis is a gorgeous city with some of the best food in the country, great sports teams, and an overwhelming sense of community. People who weren’t from St. Louis constantly asked about Ferguson, and by December, I was sick of it. It pains me to hear people say that they don’t want to visit St. Louis or that their views on St. Louis have changed. People need to realize that the actions of Ferguson don’t speak for the rest of St. Louis; in reality, the rest of the city didn’t really change at all.

The Aftermath for the Police

Ferguson hasn’t merely impacted St. Louis, but has changed the way America views police departments nationwide.

Ever since Ferguson, police officers are not viewed in the same positive light they once were. They are looked at as the enemy or as targets rather than public servants. The media did a great job portraying the police as evil, awful people that nobody can trust. In a video of protests in San Francisco, people are seen spitting at police, yelling “shame on you,” and throwing things at police.

The Ferguson aftermath has even led some people to disrupt the police entirely.  A site called Cop Block has had a resurgence following these events. This site seeks to “police the police,” and advises followers to basically show no respect to the police. They think that the constitution gives them the right to harass police and commit crimes. Another organized group, “Disarm NYPD,” seeks to create “police free zones” in an attempt to disarm police. This is so idiotic it hurts. There is no way that that measure would help at all; it might even create more crime rather than reduce it.

Some police officers have even become victims, rather than perpetrators, of violence. Recently, there was an assault on two police officers who were guarding the Ferguson Municipal court. One officer was shot in the face and the other in the shoulder. After the shots ring out, a man can be heard yelling “recognition nine months ago would have prevented this.” Police officers are afraid to go to work specifically because the media and protesters have painted big red targets on their backs.

People have shown absolutely no respect for law enforcement after Ferguson, and are placing blame for Michael Brown’s death on all police. Are there a few bad cops? Probably, but the majority of police are still good people. One recent story from St. Cloud, Florida is a good example: police flocked to a boy’s birthday party with presents after they learned that none of his friends showed up.

Lately, police work has become dangerous due to the enormous protest movement sweeping the nation. Following any incident regarding police, citizens can expect protesters to march to the streets and bully people into joining their ill-informed cause. Instead of allowing the story to keep spinning out of control, it’s time to stop the madness. I was raised to believe that if I didn’t break the law, police officers are there to protect me. I was taught to respect police officers. However, protests sought to demonize officers, and their tactics have worked.

We must instill respect for police officers again, because blue lives certainly matter as much as black lives. I always and will always support police officers, and I would hope everyone else will soon do the same.

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When you take time to review the facts, Ferguson is easily dissectible. There is no way that this is a racial issue, but the mainstream media has made it about race anyway. Ferguson has resulted in a large amount of property damage, a halt in race relations, and an assault on police officers. The death of Michael Brown changed the lives of many, and some people don’t realize how much their actions have affected their city and others.

My hometown will never be looked at in the same way again.