Michael Brown robbed a store, violently attacked the clerk, then tried to kill a police officer who defended himself and, in so doing, killed Brown.
The death of Brown, 18, in August 2014, led to days of riots and looting in Ferguson, Mo., chants of “hands up, don’t shoot,” and the resurgence of the group Black Lives Matter, which has now grown into an international organization. In the days after the shooting — especially on mainstream network TV like CNN and NBC — Brown was portrayed as being an innocent victim, of being targeted by a white policeman simply because he was black, of being shot in the back as he tried to flee.
But none of those claims turned out to be true. Security camera footage from just before the shooting showed Brown stealing several packs of cigarillos from a convenience store, then assaulting a store clerk who tried to stop him. In a post-shooting probe, President Obama’s own Department of Justice found that witnesses who said Brown had his hands up were not credible. And the DOJ said that all of Ofc. Darren Wilson’s bullets struck Brown in the front as the massive man (6 foot 4, nearly 300 pounds) moved toward him.
None of that stopped his family from filing a wrongful death lawsuit. And just days ago, the city of Ferguson settled with Brown’s parents.
“U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber approved the secret settlement Tuesday. In his order, Webber did not mention the amount, writing only that it is ‘fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests of each Plaintiff,’ ” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
But the secret settlement didn’t stay a secret long. Reports soon emerged that the family had been paid $1.5 million.
“The Brown family’s 2016 lawsuit says that a police culture of pervasive hostility toward African-Americans led to the death of Brown, 18, on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson used excessive and unreasonable force, the suit says,” the Post-Dispatch said. But the city of Ferguson, the police force and Wilson all denied the claims. Wilson was never indicted — even Obama’s Justice Department declined to prosecute him — because the facts of the case showed the officer was merely defending himself from an attacker.
So why the massive settlement? Had the family’s case gone to trial, experts said, Ferguson could have lost up to $3 million, so settling for half that made more sense. A trial would have cost $100,000, and a loss would mean more expenses for the Brown family’s lawyers.
But the merits of the case seem dubious at best. Blue Lives Matter, a pro-police website, wrote:
Attorneys for Brown’s parents have argued that the death of their son deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages. Attorneys for the defendants countered that Brown’s complete medical records were necessary and relevant in determining his ‘potenital life expectancy and future income.’
In a book that she wrote in 2016, Brown’s mother Lezley McSpadden said that her son had “high blood pressure, headaches, impaired vision and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” The medical records that Judge Webber ordered released include Brown’s medical history since he was 10-years-old.
In the end, the big losers were — once again — the residents of Ferguson. But by now, they must be used to losing.