Emil Guillermo: Officer Darren Wilson's words, and thoughts on Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and my cousin Stephen
November 25, 2014 11:31 AM
Asian Americans aren't immune to this feeling.
If you are person of color in our society and have experienced the loss of a family member or loved one to a gun death, as I have, then you know the feeling well.
It's one of complete helplessness, like you and your family don't matter. Justice just doesn't seem within reach if you are forced to rely on a district attorney or the police to be your principal attorneys and investigators.
You want to trust they'll work hard on your behalf. That they are good unbiased public servants and that when you go to the store for justice, just as you go to any other store for the product it delivers, you hope the good people will do their jobs and take care of your order. Justice? You would think you'd be able to get that in America.
Are you rich, white, or famous? Nope?
OK, you wait. Take a number. Then the case goes cold.
New murders occur. The easy ones are dealt with. The tough ones die. And then you are the victim again. Of the process.
You're left with a public official's platitudes. Something like, "I wish it weren't this way," often accompanied by a phrase of resignation, such as "Nothing will bring back your loved one..."
It's the hollow words the DA and police pass out in lieu of justice when there just aren't enough "facts" to go forward, to prosecute the known killer of your loved one.
As I watched Ferguson prosecutor Robert McCulloch go through his long wind up about the police shooting of Michael Brown, first I wondered why they waited until night? To insure rioting and looting?
I also thought of the case of my cousin, Stephen Guillermo
, an immigrant from the Philippines struggling to make his way in America with a smile.
He was unarmed when a retired security guard shot him dead on May 3 in his South of Market apartment building in San Francisco.
The circumstances were far different from Michael Brown. More like a Trayvon Martin "stand your ground" case.
But surely, the process and the end message were the same. A senseless death goes unprosecuted. Black youth don't count? Make that all people of color, Asian Americans included.
You want justice?
Sorry, justice is somehow harder for us.
We do get pain and are forced to live with that, until somehow the nothing that we get from the system sinks in and is forced to make sense.
And then we must live with the hollow words, "Nothing can bring him back..."
I feel for Michael Brown and his family. I wish the process worked for people like us in this country. The disenfranchised by skin color, by language or accent, by pocketbook, by neighborhood. Maybe it will be different some day.
As we approach Thanksgiving, let's give thanks for what we've got.
At my table, I'll save a spot for Michael. For Trayvon. For Stephen.
Stephen would have been 27 on Thanksgiving Day, November 27.
His case remains open. We are still waiting to see the official medical examiner's report. The family always has hope and a prayer.
But the signs in society are not so hopeful.
Officer Wilson's Grand Jury Testimony
For Thanksgiving, after the Tofurky and the vegan pumpkin pie, we should all take a look at the Ferguson grand jury testimony
that prosecutor Robert McCulloch released on Monday night.
Instead of whatever we do for post-meal entertainment, maybe we should hold our families close and read Officer Darren Wilson's words aloud to get a sense of how justice works in America.
You can start anywhere. But I was taken by Wilson's "confession" to his police sergeant as he gets back to his squad car.
"I had to kill him," Wilson said. "He grabbed my gun. I shot him. I killed him."
Had to kill Michael Brown? After Brown ran away?
I wish the news hounds on Monday night--instead of flashing their lights on the crowd inducing the "knuckleheads" to do their thing--had simply read from the released grand jury transcripts.
You'd know all about Officer Darren Wilson, 28, in his own words.
That he was a cop for five years and had worked only in black neighborhoods.
How he was no small guy. Six-foot-three, 210 pounds. (Compare that to Michael Brown, 18, six-foot-four, almost 300 pounds.)
The transcript says Wilson didn't care for tasers. Didn't carry one. But he had mace. He didn't like that much either. He wore contacts, and if mace ever got in his face, he was done, he said.
He did have a trusty Sig Sauer P229, .40 caliber, fully loaded.
But he had never used his weapon before. Ever. Until that day.
The transcript makes Wilson sound like an inexperienced greenhorn, not ready for prime time. At best, he was just a white man with a badge, who felt disrespected by two black men he saw walking down the middle of the street.
Wilson seemed to have a special fancy for Brown, who responded to him with an obscenity.
It all went downhill from there.
When the protectors of the community are seen as the enemy, and the people of the community are seen by the protectors as the enemy, we've lost all chance for justice.
In fact, from the time Wilson said he saw Brown to the time he was dead, Wilson says it was maybe a minute or less.
That tells you how quickly justice is lost in America.
The transcript is like a modern urban tragedy. Wilson was in his squad car. He called Brown over. Wilson says he didn't see any weapons, but that Brown hit him on the head. And that's when the struggle started for Wilson's gun.
There were two clicks of the trigger. Nothing. Then the trigger was pulled and the gun went off.
"I think it startled him and me at the same time," said Wilson.
Wilson said Brown stepped back, and described him as looking "like a demon, that's how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At that point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again; click; nothing happened."
Wilson said he saw Brown's hands up which made him shield his face.
Wilson said at that point Brown hit him. But Wilson also pulled his gun trigger. Nothing. Then a second click, and the gun went off.
Brown ran away and Wilson gets out of the car. He calls for help, but pursues anyway.
Wilson tells Brown to get on the ground. But Wilson said Brown had his right hand under his shirt and started running at him.
"I remember having tunnel vision on his right hand, that's all, I'm just focusing on that hand when I was shooting."
"Well, after the last shot my tunnel vision kind of opened up. I remember seeing the smoke from the gun and I kind of looked at him and he's still coming at me, he hadn't slowed down."
"At this point I started backpedalling again, I tell him get on the ground, get on the ground, he doesn't. I shoot another round of shots. Again, I don't recall how many it was or if I hit him every time. I know at least once because he flinched again."
"At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I'm shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn't even there, I wasn't even anything in his way."
Wilson feared he would be tackled.
"And when he gets 8-10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites and firing, all I see is his head and that's what I shot. I don't know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean, I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped."
This testimony raises many questions.
So Wilson had to kill Brown, who despite a hand under a shirt, never showed a weapon?
After the initial tussle in the car, when Brown ran away, Wilson had to pursue the unarmed man?
DA McCulloch knew what he was doing when he passed the buck to a grand jury. Instead of open proceedings, they were secret. And instead of lawyers for both sides, the DA's team presented the case.
The grand jury heard evidence, but it wasn't supposed to try the case.
It simply had to decide if there were enough facts to bring the case forward to charge Wilson with any of these four crimes: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
It could have even charged him with an armed criminal action, if he were carrying a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony.
Mc Culloch implied the grand jury was diverse, but he knew it wasn't. No Asians, no Hispanics. This was typical 1950s St. Louis. Six white men, three white women, one black man and two black women.
The grand jury was set for polarization. It took nine votes to bring back an indictment for any charges against Officer Wilson.
But there was no indictment for anything. Not even a lesser charge.
And then the feeling sinks in.
What about justice?
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