Michael Brown Shooting

The Shooting of Michael Brown and the Phantom Menace of Drug-Crazed Blacks


Ferguson High School

Some commentators have suggested, based on little or no evidence, that drugs made Michael Brown behave in a way that caused Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson to shoot him. In my latest Forbes column, I argue that such speculation encourages the use of excessive force by stoking cops' fears of people they perceive to be under the influence, especially if those people happen to be black. Here is how the piece starts:

Darren Wilson thought Michael Brown was "on something." Or so says one of Wilson's friends, describing the police officer's state of mind when he shot and killed the unarmed black teenager on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. "He really thinks he was on something, because he just kept coming," the friend, identified only as "Josie," said during a phone call to a St. Louis radio show on Monday afternoon. "It was unbelievable."

Earlier that same day, Fox News commentator Jim Pinkerton made a similar suggestion. "Eyewitnesses said that Brown was charging the cops," Pinkerton said on the channel's Happening Now show. "We'll know more with a blood test. If he was high on some drug, angel dust or PCP or something…it's entirely possible you could take a lot more than six bullets and keep charging." In other words, if Brown was high on PCP, firing just six rounds into him would be a mark of restraint.

A few hours later, The Washington Post reported that the blood test anticipated by Pinkerton showed "Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot." The article, based on information from an unnamed source familiar with St. Louis County's investigation of the shooting, said nothing about PCP.

Unfazed by that news, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor in chief of The American Spectator, speculated in a column published two days later that PCP-laced marijuana caused the aggressive behavior described by Wilson. "Those Swisher Sweet cigars are used as a conduit for ingesting a mixture of PCP and marijuana," Tyrrell wrote, referring to the stolen cigarillos Brown was carrying. "My guess is that Brown's senseless death was brought on by…psychosis and permanent brain injury."

It should be emphasized that witnesses disagree about whether Brown was moving toward Wilson when he was shot, which is a central point of contention in the case, since it underpins Wilson's claim that he fired in self-defense. But either way, attempts to explain Brown's alleged actions by reference to psychoactive substances he might have consumed exaggerate the power of those chemicals, which may encourage the use of excessive force by stoking officers' fears of people whom they perceive to be "on something." This kind of fear mongering is also regrettable because it harks back to a shameful history of warnings about people with dark skin and drug-infused blood.

Read the whole thing.


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  1. Lieutenant Traxler: Sarah,
    [shows a bullet-proof vest]
    Lieutenant Traxler: This is what they call body armor. Our tac guys wear these. It can stop a 12-gauge round. This other individual must have been wearing one under his coat. Feel that. Go ahead.
    Sarah Connor: [She is handed the vest and she feels it] What about when he punched through the wind shield?
    Detective Vukovich: He was probably on PCP. Broke every bone in his hand and wouldn’t feel it for hours. There was this guy once, you see this scar?
    [Traxler interrupts him by handing him back the vest]

  2. Needs moar Mexicans and butt-sex.

    1. Doesn’t everything?

  3. “My guess is that Brown’s senseless death was brought on by?psychosis and permanent brain injury.”

    Being that Brown was shot twice in the head, this guy got it half right.

    1. Yeah, he should go hang his shingle out as a forensic pathologist!

  4. Damn. This constant speculation is asinine. We’ll know soon enough – toxicology report – whether any drug besides pot was in his system.

    There is physical evidence that will certainly clarify what actually happened. How about waiting until then to pass judgment?

    1. “How about waiting until then to pass judgment?”

      How dare you!

  5. “Those Swisher Sweet cigars are used as a conduit for ingesting a mixture of PCP and marijuana,” Tyrrell wrote, referring to the stolen cigarillos Brown was carrying. “My guess is that Brown’s senseless death was brought on by?psychosis and permanent brain injury.”

    Does he think you only use blunts when there’s PCP in your weed?

    1. In my neighborhood, Swisher Sweets are very popular. Even the lady’s smoke them. But they smoke them as is out of the pack.

      1. Even the lady’s smoke them. But they smoke them as is out of the pack.

        Out of curiosity, where do you live? (Such behavior is unheard of in my part of the world–U.S. mid-atlantic)

        1. Minneapolis. Northside.

      2. “In the ghetto…”

    2. Has anyone even done PCP since 1980?

      1. Of course not. It’s illegal.

  6. Tyrrell thinks that Michael Brown would’ve been just fine if he’d sat at home and drank some scotch instead of using the demon weed.

  7. BTW, I find that picture to be offensively propagandist.

    1. Yeah, I haven’t been on the cops side from day one, but that picture is blatantly trying to provoke an innocent image of Brown.

      For shame Sullum. For shame.

      1. Yeah, Sullum. You shoulda picked a gangsta’ shot.

        1. It didn’t need to be a gangsta shot, but his high school graduation photo? Really?

          1. Honestly, I think this is a wack complaint. It’s his most recent professional photograph. It’s not like H&R hasn’t published a variety of pictures of him. Using someone’s most recent professional headshot is reasonable.

            1. Damn it Nikki, you made me think about my position.

              No wonder you’re the worst.

      2. Also, not sure how many copyright-free photos there are of him.

  8. I guess it’s no worse than stoking fears about rabid dangerous cops on a near daily basis via a popular blog site. Which group do you think hurts more people, “drug-crazed Blacks” or cops? And lets not forget that one of those groups is actually paid by us to go looking for trouble.

      1. Yeah. Definitely cops. Was that supposed to be a difficult question?

        1. As someone who spends most of every day in Compton, CA, I say you are poorly informed. Your experience here on the internet, especially at this website may lead to a distorted reality.

    1. “[P]opular blog site”?
      Could you link to it?

      1. Hint: They got you coming like a free porn site every day.

  9. I’ve seen several fights caused by whiskey,can’t say the same for MJ

    1. Yeah, I’ve never seen stoners get violent. Drunks, on the other hand, well, there’s a reason ‘bar fights’ are a thing.

    2. I’ve seen fights diffused by MJ. Never started by it.

  10. In all seriousness, though, that’s one of the most disconcerting photos of Brown that I’ve seen.

    1. I don’t see why. Most people do graduate from HS and yearbook photos are often the most readily-available image.

      1. I don’t remember all that clearly, but I don’t remember looking quite that…menacing…in my high school graduation photo.

        1. That I think he looks menacing is undoubtedly a sign of racism.

      2. Anyhow, the graduation robes combined with Brown’s expression produces some cognitive dissonance, which Sullum should claim was exactly the effect he was looking for.

      3. I have never seen a yearbook photo with the person wearing a graduation cap.

  11. Mr. Sullum makes many good points, but I think falls prey to what I see as a common error: dismissing reality because it reinforces a stereotype. There really are “drug-crazed” offenders. That doesn’t mean they are common, or that every supposed instance is true, or that drug warriors don’t exaggerate, but they do exist.

    As for Brown, we only know about the pot. That’s a bit of a clue, because people who take one drug are more likely to take others. And then we have the reports of his odd behavior. (At least to me, attacking a cop, especially one with a drawn gun, is odd.) So “Was this guy high?” seems like a reasonable question, regardless of whether this reinforces a stereotype.

    1. people who take one drug are more likely to take others

      Gateway drug!!1! (SWIDT?)

      1. Not the same thing. It’s just that statistically, someone who takes PCP is more likely to also take other drugs.

        1. “Someone who takes PCP is more likely to also take other drugs” =! “Someone who’s taken marijuana is likely to take other drugs”

          1. Someone who takes pot is more likely to be someone who takes other drugs, compared to someone who takes no drugs at all.

            1. Citation needed.

              1. Sorry, no time for that, but it’s also common sense. Very few people skip from teetotaling to very hard drugs. It’s like finding someone who has never had a beer, but only drinks straight shots of whiskey. Or someone who takes heroin, but has never had alcohol or tobacco. Or they take LSD, but never tried pot. All those are possible but unlikely. What’s most likely is that people tried the more available/less strong options, and then the harder stuff. It’s rare to jump directly to the hard stuff.

                Thus my original point: when calculating the odds that someone takes PCP, finding out that they take pot increases those odds.

    2. When all you have is verbal eyewitness accounts of his behavior, why assume that the “odd behavior” of attacking the cop with the drawn gun is the “true story” and the “reasonable behavior” of raising your hands and saying “don’t shoot” is the lie?

      1. There seem to be conflicting eyewitness accounts, some of which say he charged the cop.

  12. Whay da white wimminz ?

  13. I don’t know if there were drugs or not, and I know this makes me sheltered, but the alternative almost sounds worse.

    Is the alternative hypothesis that these two guys walk into convenience stores, grab stuff and shove the clerk, then walk down the middle of a street blocking traffic SOBER?

    (Disclaimer: nobody deserves to get shot even if they did shove a guy around and take his stuff, then walk down the street blocking traffic, but I sort of hope that drug-addled behavior, not everyday conduct.)

    1. Drunk, if anything.

    2. Disclaimer: nobody deserves to get shot even if they did shove a guy around and take his stuff…

      The store clerk was justified in shooting Brown during the moment he was grabbed.

    3. That is one of the odd aspects of the story. And then, when the cop tells them to get out of the street, why give him lip? But maybe it was just the dim-witted macho attitude so prevalent among ghetto teen males.

      1. And maybe the cop was an asshole and said something derogatory and that’s why he mouthed off. Unfortunately we’ll never know.

        1. Yeah, but still: you’ve just committed a robbery. Why draw attention to yourself, by walking down the middle of the street, and then mouthing off to the cop who tells you to move to the sidewalk? It doesn’t matter if the cop was an asshole. Brown was still either massively egotistical or high (or both).

          1. Absolutely not the behavior of someone who’s high. Absolutely spot-on the behavior of a drunk teenager.

  14. If you watch the store video, Brown just seems violent and mean. What difference does it make whether he is white or black, drugged out or just naturally so?

    Why the race baiting? Is there any reason to believe people are more afraid of drugged out black guys than of drugged out white guys?

  15. Brown obviously wasnt shy about breaking the law and being a bully.Maybe when caught he realized he was going to prison this time as an adult.This might have caused him to react inappropriately .

  16. I see no basis in reality for the premise of this article.

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