Capeheart regrets supporting 'Hands up, don't shoot' narrative
An important retraction from a major figure in black journalism. The Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capeheart has penned an op-ed regretting his promotion of the "Hands up, don't shoot" narrative related to the shooting of Michael Brown.
In those early hours and early days, there was more unknown than known. But this month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.
Through exhaustive interviews with witnesses, cross-checking their statements with previous statements to authorities and the media, ballistics, DNA evidence and results from three autopsies, the Justice Department was able to present a credible and troubling picture of what happened on Canfield Drive. More credible than the grand jury decision to not indict Wilson. The transcript of his grand jury testimony read like so much hand-holding by the prosecution.
What DOJ found made me ill. Wilson knew about the theft of the cigarillos from the convenience store and had a description of the suspects. Brown fought with the officer and tried to take his gun. And the popular hands-up storyline, which isn’t corroborated by ballistic and DNA evidence and multiple witness statements, was perpetuated by Witness 101. In fact, just about everything said to the media by Witness 101, whom we all know as Dorian Johnson, the friend with Brown that day, was not supported by the evidence and other witness statements.
The second autopsy, performed by the Justice Department, reached the same conclusion months ago, which calls into question Capeheart's recantation. The forensic evidence has always pointed in one direction: Wilson did not shoot Michael Brown while he was surrendering, and the lies and misstatements from eyewitnesses – many of whom finally admitted they never saw what happened – were contradicted by the basic evidence.
A reasonably well-informed person knew all of this months ago. Apparently, Capeheart didn't bother to read it. While his apology now is appropriate, during the months when protests turned to riots, he didn't say anything.
Capeheart mentions the other report issued by the DOJ on the justice system in Ferguson being used to fill city coffers with money from fines:
The report on the Ferguson police department detailed abuse and blatant trampling of the constitutional rights of people, mostly African Americans, in Ferguson. Years of mistreatment by the police, the courts and the municipal government, including evidence that all three balanced their books on the backs of the people of Ferguson, were laid bare in 102 damning pages. The overwhelming data from DOJ provided background and much-needed context for why a small St. Louis suburb most had never heard of exploded the moment Brown was killed. His death gave voice to many who suffered in silence.
There is nothing new about predatory government, enforcing laws for the purpose of raising cash. Quotas for speeding tickets, DUIs, even violations like driving while talking on a cell phone are commonplace in small towns all across America. The key is that the issue is not black or white – it's green. Race is a convenient whipping boy, but it's predatory government that's the real enemy.
Capeheart quotes extensively from the Brown shooting report, and ends up on the right side:
The DOJ report notes on page 44 that [Brown's friend, Dorian] Johnson “made multiple statements to the media immediately following the incident that spawned the popular narrative that Wilson shot Brown execution-style as he held up his hands in surrender.” In one of those interviews, Johnson told MSNBC that Brown was shot in the back by Wilson. It was then that Johnson said Brown stopped, turned around with his hands up and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” And, like that, “hands up, don’t shoot” became the mantra of a movement. But it was wrong, built on a lie.
The Ferguson protestors are still using the "Hands up, don't shoot" meme in their demonstrations. It's a big reason why they lack all credibility. But "Black lives matter" may outlive them. There will always be stupid perps and nervous cops and tragic incidents that should never have happened.
The myth of Michael Brown being shot while surrendering is too powerful an image for the racialists to let go of and will continue to be of use to them for years to come.