“I don’t know what happened in Ferguson, Mo., between the cop and the kid. And neither do you.” So begins a piece at National Review Online by one-time liberal and CBS reporter-turned cynic Bernard Goldberg. “When I covered hard news,” he continues, “I saw cops who crossed the line and I saw kids who started trouble. So let’s not jump to conclusions.”
But what do you think the reaction in Ferguson would have been if the kid who got shot had been black and so was the cop? Or if the kid was white and the cop was black — or white? Do you think there would have been demonstrations and riots and an onslaught of national media?
It’s a reasonable point of speculation … possibly more reasonable than Goldberg knows. Just yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried the story of an unarmed white man named Michael Brown who was gunned down by police in a small Missouri town. This particular shooting occurred in 2005 in the town of Troy. Brown was 23.
Authorities said that Lincoln County sheriff’s Deputy Nic Forler fired through the back window of a pickup, killing Brown and the driver, Tyler Teasley, 22. No one in the truck was armed.
Police said Forler tried to stop Teasley’s truck for speeding but was led on a short chase. When the truck finally stopped, Forler pulled behind it, got out of his patrol car and stood between the vehicles.
Witnesses said Teasley was “freaking out” because he had been drinking, there was alcohol in the car and several passengers were under 21. In his panic, they said, Teasley left the truck in neutral. As the truck rolled backward, Forler fired the fatal shots that struck both victims in the head.
Family and friends demonstrated regularly outside the sheriff’s office. Forler was dismissed from the force and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
In a trial in 2007, moved to Boone County because of the controversy caused in Lincoln County, Forler testified that he believed Teasley was trying to run him over, and he feared for his life. The jury took only three hours to find Forler not guilty.
After the verdict in 2007, Teasley’s mother, Mary, wept as she spoke to reporters outside the courthouse. “How can I tell my family that the law is for everyone when I can go to the police academy for six months and go out and murder someone?”
Compare the reaction to that Michael Brown shooting to the one that occurred a week ago last Saturday. The article notes that “family and friends demonstrated regularly outside the sheriff’s office,” but there is no mention of rioting or looting. Another difference is in the way the media handled that story. It received local coverage only.
One particularly salient difference was the absence of outside agitators. Al Sharpton, for example, was nowhere near Troy to protest police gunning down an unarmed man.
Which is not to say Sharpton was a stranger to the area. In July of 2000, he organized the blockade of a highway near St. Louis to protest the police shooting of two unarmed men. Undercover DEA agents opened fire on a car containing Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley, both convicted drug dealers, after they tried to run the officers down.
Friends and family described the men, who both had felony convictions, as small-time drug dealers, hustling crack cocaine and marijuana.
“I’m not saying he was an angel,” said Chris Murray, Murray’s brother. “No matter what was going on, it shouldn’t have happened. If he wasn’t shooting at them, they shouldn’t have shot him.”