Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Walter Scott Shooting

by Pat Brown

I recently appeared on CNN to talk about the Walter Scott case and a lot of people are angry over what I said or what I was trying to say. The host of the show had her own agenda of what she wanted me to talk about and kept trying to cut me off, so I lacked the time to present a complete analysis. Some have called me a shill which, if anyone has followed me for any length of time, they know I always just say what I think and I do not speak on behalf of any "side" or organization. I don't have an agenda except for the truth and keeping things in perspective and not going on some campaign outside of the issue of crime scene analysis, to be objective and not subjective, to explain what is the issue facing prosecution and defense, and not to score brownie points with anyone.

Let me break down what happened with this appearance, what I was saying, and why I have been so misinterpreted by a number of people who are sending hate mail and making hate phone calls.

My job as a profiler is to analyze the known evidence and the totality of the known evidence. Prior to the show, I gave a pre-interview discussing what I was going to say, how I wanted to specifically point out that the whole issue comes down to was whether Michael Slager had a right to shoot Walter Scott, to pull the trigger, and how this is what was going to have to be decided in court. I was under the impression I was going to be on the show alone and not on a panel. I was never told we were going to be including another police incident on the show and that the show focus was not going to be on the Scott case but on police brutality and overuse of force.

When it came my turn to talk, I was asked a question by the host about the Slager's demeanor after the shooting. I chose not to talk about that in isolation because it is meaningless in isolation and, in reality, has little to do with his guilt or innocence. His guilt or innocence lies in exactly the point I kept trying to make on the show; was he justified in pulling the trigger or not. The only evidence that matters is what happened THAT day from the time Slager and Scott came in contact. EVEN if he had a history of overuse of force (which has not been proven in spite of the ex-policewoman said on the show; so far just one complaint in six years) and EVEN if he danced a jig after he shot Scott down. EVEN if he planted evidence (which has not been clearly proven) after the fact because we don't know if that would have been done because there he knew there was NO justification for the shooting or because he was so in shock that he panicked and thought he needed to add justification because he was scared that he wouldn't be believed. Believe me, the last thing cops want is to have to shoot someone because that means suspension and investigation and possible loss of the career one worked so hard to get. In fact, most police officers never fire their service weapon in their entire years onthe  force. But, again, all of this is not the issue. All that matters is, when Slager pulled the trigger, did he have a reasonable belief that if he failed to do so, he would be killed in the next few moments or someone else would be killed in the next few moments. Slager has now to prove in court that the EVENTS LEADING UP TO HIS DECISION where such that he was justified in shooting Scott.

This is why I attempted to take the viewers back to what happened prior to the shooting. What I said on the show was up to the end of the altercation, there is nothing to suggest Slager was not doing his job properly. He was polite at the traffic stop. He went back to his vehicle to do his check. Scott then acted improperly, fleeing the scene. Slager pursed and caught up with him. Scott resisted arrest. Even after being tased, he was not complying. He fought with police officer and again fled the scene. All of this shows Slager was dealing with someone who was acting in a violent and criminal manner.

So far, Slager appears to be in the right. Then, comes the end of the tussle and the taser issue which is a bit unclear. What exactly happened with the taser, who had it when, when was it dropped. I preferred not to get into this because it will take quite a bit of analysis to come as close as possible to what truly happened and this is the crux of the case that the prosecution and the defense will battle over. Then, when that is sorted out best as possible, the next issue is at exactly what range did Slager shoot Scott and is there any good reason, considering all the elements and evidence up to the point of pulling the trigger, that Slager or anyone else in his place have to shoot Scott down as he ran? Reasons in the mind of an officer in this situation that might be defensible would be 1) at the time he went to fire, he thought Scott had the taser and could turn and fire on him, incapacitating him, and, thereby allowing him to access his police weapon, or 2) that he thought Scott had a second weapon and could turn and fire and fire on him. One has to keep in mind that all events leading up to such a moment become extremely condensed in and heightened in the human mind which is why a split second decision can be hard to understand in retrospect. Slager might have thought Scott was closer than he was when he shot, thought Scott was more threatening (a taser didn't take him down), was terrified Scott had a hidden weapon, would take a few steps, spin around and kill him. THIS is what he has to prove to a jury if he doesn't want to spend his life in prison for pulling that trigger.

The other scenarios as to why Slager may have shot Scott could be that he was pissed Scott was going to make him run again or Scott had bested him and was going to maybe get away. Maybe Slager is a control freak who doesn't like losing. THIS is what the prosecution has to prove, that none of the events leading up to the moment of pulling the trigger justified Slager in believing that he had the right to shoot Scott.

Television can be a strange animal, especially in a short panel situation. While I was trying to make this point, I had little time to speak and was not allowed to get a thorough statement out. Meanwhile, what I was hearing from the panel were broad negative brushes about law enforcement and assumptions and hearsay. All of this type of discussion does nothing but emotionalize the situation and fuel anger. I was trying to get people to look at the incident itself, in isolation from some bigger political or personal agenda, and allow ALL the evidence to be gathered and presented in court.

There are bad cops out there; some officers have control issues, some love power, some love the hell out of weapons, some are racist, some are assholes. Guess what? Same is true for the teaching profession, the medical profession, etc. While departments need to do the best job they can hiring, the best they can in firing problem officers, the best they can in running their department in as ethical and pro-community as they can, sometimes a portion of the employees just aren't the greatest. I have spoken out quite strongly against certain officers and departments during my life, against incompetence and corruption. We all should but we shouldn't become irrational with anger without evidence to back it. Right off the bat with this case, we had the racism issue go full force simply because the officer was white and the victim was black. Yet, when the dash-cam video came out, that rage has softened a bit because we did not see a cop acting in a racist manner. The argument seemed to change to police brutality and overuse of force. I say, let's make sure we thoroughly understand the whole event properly before we decide if there is a political issue to make of this or just possibly a poor decision made by one lone individual.

The media needs to stop whipping up emotions based on a lot of junk reporting and hyperbole. It needs to start being responsible for what it prints and airs. And, as for us American citizens, let's not take on a lynching mentality. Let's discuss issues civilly and, when it comes down to cases like this, allow some time for the evidence to be gathered and understood and  let the outcome be decided in court.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

May 12, 2016