One Police Plaza

What We Now Know About Ferguson, MO

October 20, 2014

So it wasn’t merely a white cop shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri as the nation has been led to believe.

Forensic evidence appears to support what police officer Darren Wilson said happened before he shot and killed Michael Brown two months ago. That evidence seems to offer a legal justification for his actions.

Rabble-rousers, pundits and ordinary people of good will take note: best not to rush to judgment and to temper anti-police rhetoric, whether in Ferguson or New York City, until all the facts are in.

In Ferguson, Wilson, 28, a three-year veteran of that city’s police department, told authorities he was trying to exit his vehicle when Brown pushed him back in. Inside the car, the two fought and Wilson removed his gun from his holster. He fired two shots. One hit Brown in the arm. The other missed.

Forensic tests show Brown’s blood was on Wilson’s gun, his uniform and on the car’s interior door panel, according to The New York Times, which last week reported on the evidence examined by the FBI.

Such a struggle inside his car indicates Wilson may have felt his life was in danger, which would justify his shooting Brown. Such a struggle would also make it difficult to charge Wilson with the federal crime of violating Brown’s civil rights.

At the same time, the forensic evidence does not explain why Wilson, after exiting his car, then fired at Brown numerous times, killing him, leading to weeks of racial turmoil in Ferguson and beyond.

Further roiling tensions were some eyewitnesses' statements that Brown was surrendering, holding his hands up when Wilson shot him; others have said Brown appeared to be moving towards Wilson.

A similar rush-to-judgment dynamic has also played out in New York City. Since the “choke-hold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, black leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries have called for the indictment and conviction of officers who caused Garner’s death as he resisted arrest.

Sharpton has already condemned Wilson’s account in Ferguson as reported by the Times. “You are asking me to believe that a young man that was shot and knew he didn’t have a gun ran back at you, in toward a gun that already shot him?” he said.

“If that grand jury [in Ferguson] comes back with no indictment, then we are headed to Washington and we are going to have a national ‘hands up’ rally around the Justice Department like you have never seen before.”

If that’s the case, President Obama, who has played footsie with Sharpton, will learn a lesson that New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t: you deal with Sharpton at your peril.

LOVE IS STRANGE. From all accounts, Rachel Noerdlinger is a professional, even when she squirmed on the cusp of truthfulness a year ago to justify to this reporter the refusal of her past boss, Al Sharpton, to answer questions about his hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Precisely because of her professional success, it is difficult to explain her attraction to her live-in boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan. According to documents released by the city last week, the convicted killer and drug dealer sees himself as a victim of racial profiling after piling up nearly $1,000 in unpaid traffic tickets while driving Noerdlinger to and from her job as chief of staff to Mayor de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray.

So far, both de Blasio and Sharpton have backed Noerdlinger, repeating that McFarlan’s actions have no bearing on her job. But with the latest disclosures that, as her driver, McFarlan’s continuing bad acts are indeed related to Noerdlinger’s job, she may have soon have to choose between her job and her boyfriend.

De Blasio, too, may soon have to make some decisions. He may have to choose between placating his wife and Sharpton, and properly running the city.

WHEREFORE REGGIE? Four-term Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis became the latest local pol to face criminal charges — in his case, two counts of failing to file tax returns.

Now the question is: where does this leave Reggie Ward, Davis’s longtime Deputy Police Commissioner, known to readers of this column as the Crown Prince of Buff-land?

Ward, who sits on the dais at the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s annual convention in Albany because he cuts the union an annual check of around $10,000, also runs a non-profit police charity called the New York Law Enforcement Foundation, out of his Park Avenue apartment, where he answers his phone, “Commissioner Ward.”

Even former police commissioner Ray Kelly appeared in Reggie’s corner, attending his annual July barbecue and issuing him a coveted NYPD parking placard.

While Davis was mayor, Reggie served as his dollar-a-year Deputy Police Commissioner for Technology. He also filled the police commissioner’s revolving door job with a couple of retired NYPD officials, most notably the retired two-star Chief Gertrude LaForgia, who Reggie recruited in 1998 but forced out three years later when she objected to his interference in police matters.

Reggie also recruited computer consultant Stephen Alster, who was found guilty in a civil suit of sexually harassing Mount Vernon police officer Karyn Anderson. She was awarded $75,000.

Alster was subsequently convicted of detonating a pipe bomb outside the Brooklyn Heights apartment building of NYPD rookie cop Yensey Thomas, and is serving 20 years in prison.

As for Reggie, he has had health issues that sidelined him for nearly a year, although he seemed fit the last time this reporter saw him.

Last week, he wasn’t returning messages.


Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt