In the final three paragraphs of a "Year in Review" item at the Los Angeles Times on December 31 (HT Patterico), reporter Matt Pearce joined the long list of journalists who have failed to properly characterize the evidence in Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri in August.
You had to know that distortions were coming based on the rest of the article content which preceded it. The most obvious giveaway was Pearce's description of Eric Garner's death on Staten Island. He wrote that Garner "died after an altercation with police; the officer accused of putting him in an unauthorized chokehold was not indicted." The officer involved was "accused" of the act, but he didn't commit it. In August, former NYPD detective Bo Deitl indicated that "it was a headlock, not a chokehold," and that the non-choking action was not the cause of Garner's death. Well, if Pearce couldn't get Garner right, it was a near certainty that he'd seriously botch his description of the Brown situation, which he proceeded to do (bolds are mine):
The opposing accounts of what happened the day Michael Brown died seem to capture the divide that will no doubt continue as debate continues on tactics, body cameras and shooting investigations.
Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up when he was shot. (Ferguson Police Officer Darren) Wilson told investigators Brown was charging at him to attack.
It was a basic disagreement of fact that would foreshadow the much larger debate looming for the nation — on what it means to be black in America, or to be a police officer in America, in which voices from both sides would claim to be betrayed and, most of all, deeply misunderstood.
Reading those three paragraphs, one would think that it's Wilson's word against everyone else's, and that there's no other relevant evidence. That, of course, is hogwash, as a pair of Washington Post reporters noted on November 29:
According to transcripts of the grand jury investigation into the deadly encounter in Ferguson, three of the witnesses to the shooting described Brown’s movements as a “charge.”
Then there's that pesky forensic evidence that Brown defenders or sympahizers never cite, because it obliterates their "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" contention about Brown. Again, here's someone at the Washington Post, in this case Paul Cassell at its Volokh Conspiracy blog, documenting the results the Los Angeles Times apparently refuses to recognize:
The physical evidence in the Michael Brown case supported the officer
... The physical evidence is consistent with his (Wilson's) testimony.
... This physical evidence is thus quite consistent with Wilson’s testimony that Brown was trying to get hold of Wilson’s weapon, creating a fear in Wilson that he was going to get shot.
... At some point in the altercation, it appears undisputed that Brown (and his friend Dorian Johnson) ran away from Wilson. Wilson pursued on foot and, according to Wilson, Brown eventually paused, turned around, and then charged at him.
The ME’s testimony also aligns with Wilson’s testimony on this point.
The LA Times's Matt Pearce refused to acknowledge anything besides Wilson's testimony, making it look like the officer perhaps unfairly got the benefit of the doubt about testimony which otherwise had no support.
As Patterico noted in his post:
... this is the sort of irresponsible distortion that helps contribute to an atmosphere of public misunderstanding of the facts — which in turn contributes to the misperception of crazy people who want to take revenge.
The stakes are high, Matt Pearce. Do better.
The stakes are indeed high. Even if Pearce was "merely" exhibiting extreme laziness and sloppiness, the Times's alleged layers of fact checkers and editors should have caught these errors, which are certainly potentially dangerous in the current circumstances. But they didn't. They instead, deliberately or not, gave aid and comfort to "crazy people who want to take revenge" on cops around the nation.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.