“I Googled my name and I seen my picture, and it said like snitches get stitches. Been nervous and scared.”
The official transcript of the Ferguson Grand Jury continues to be fascinating as I chug my way past the 20% reading mark.
A portion of the current eye witness testimony before me, that of Interview #4 taken on September 17 , was particularly engaging however.
The reason? It shows in visceral detail some of the explicit and coordinated efforts to physically intimidate eye witnesses from speaking with law enforcement, and how genuinely frightened these efforts made those witnesses.
I’ve reproduced the relevant section of Interview #4 below, and the entire length of that interview is embedded at the bottom of this post. (This interview did not take place before the Grand Jury itself, but rather the audio recording of the interview conducted at an earlier date was played for the Grand Jury.)
There are three interviewers, whom I have labelled (as best I was able to discern from the transcript) as “Unknown,” “Mr.,” and “Ms.,” at least one of whom is an FBI Special Agent and another of which is an attorney with the prosecutor’s office. (It is possible the “unknown” category should be assigned to some combination of “Mr.” and “Ms.”) The witness is labelled as “I4.” All identities and identifying information has been redacted in the official transcript.
The interview has been going on for some time when one of the persons leading the questioning interrupts the substantive discussion:
Unknown: I want to impress upon you something.
Unknown: That we have observed and it is throughout the investigation because I feel like you might be a little bit cautious in your, careful, with your words in the sense of, we are aware on, the pressure that exist. Are you still living in Canfield?
Unknown: So, and I’m sure this is still a big deal. This is going to be a big deal for a very, very long time.
I4: Yes, it is definitely.
Unknown: And you have been on the news, right?
Unknown: And you have people come up to you and talk to you about that, people up in the community.
I4: Yeah, they, yeah, they seen me, they say they seen me and stuff like that.
Unknown: Okay. I also want you to understand you talking to us today, we don’t go tell people we talk to you. It is completely confidential.
Unknown: We take every precaution to protect your information. So this is not going to be out in the community, this is not going to be told, they’re not going to say you snitched or you didn’t fight for Mike Brown enough.
We need 100 percent honesty and clarity, and we are not going to say, we are not on one side of the other, you know, this isn’t for—for the search for the truth, okay?
Unknown: So I want you to be confident that you can trust us and trust us to say that we’re not going to make, we are ot going to skew your testimony, okay?
Unknown: This is it, okay?
Unknown: This is what it is.
I4: I understand. Just so you guys know, I am very, very nervous about everything since, since that day to now.
Unknown: And that’s completely normal to be nervous, nervous to talk to us, nervous in general. Is there anything in particular that you are nervous about more so than others?
I4: Um, I’m, um, I have been, I’ve just been just kind of scared, just kind of scared. Especially, you know, with the interviews. I stopped doing the interviews, I stopped after I did one with [redacted]— [emphasis added–AFB]
I4: –on a Friday. After that I felt sick, I started worrying.
Mr. Why is that?
I4: I don’t know, I just started something, like something may happen, you know. I started thinking about, wait a minute, I done did quite a few interviews and I don’t have a lawyer and why do everybody else have lawyers when they put out the very first interview, you know.
I Googled my name and I seen a lot of stuff and I come across something, uh, that somebody put, I seen my picture, and it said like snitches get stitches, and then under it says something about people keep talking, they are going to get [redacted], you know, we are going to do something to you. [emphasis added–AFB]
Mr.: What’s that?
I4: I don’t know. It’s spelled [redacted]. You know, I’m not even sure what that is, but I’ve just been nervous and scared, and I have been letting everybody know about my time in and where I’m going and stuff like that. [emphasis added–AFB]
So, uh, but like I said, until this day, but it has been like two weeks, two, three weeks now, you know, no reporters at my house or nothing, no calls. You know, I’m kind of, I’m still in my regular day and going to work every day, taking care of my family and stuff, doing the same thing every day. I don’t go nowhere, but I come home, you know, so.
But I’m keeping it cool, but the ones like at work, I—I tell them because I don’t show it neither. Like when I be at work, I have a smile on my face all the time, you know, I don’t show it until they, I seen you on TV and want to talk about it and stuff like that. And I tell them how I feel, you know. So I’m just staying cool though, you know.
I4: But very nervous.
Unknown: This is the first time you are talking to us and we can treat that as a first time.
Unknown: You are a, you are now a federal witness, and with that comes certain intentions [sic, presumably “protections]. So we want to make sure you are comfortable.
So, I mean, we would like to offer you water, you are more than entitled to, if you want to get up and take and walk around and if that makes you feel more comfortable, but.
I4: I’m fine right now.
Ms.: Yeah, and we want you to know if at any point someone does intimidates you or let me be specific, to intimidates you or scares you or you feel somehow more nervous than general nervousness, you certainly should, um, call [redacted], I know you have her number here at the FBI. Because witness information is something apart from everything else. It could be a crime.
So we are trying to be specific, okay, not some [inaudible].
Ms.: General nervousness is normal, especially like in (inaudible). If there is anything in particular that makes you nervous at all, we want to know that. So is there anything in particular or just a general feeling from Goggling [sic] yourself/
I4: Um, that, um, one moment, um, at the time when the audio came out about the shooting, let me see, like a week and a half earlier before that I stopped doing interviews, I didn’t receive no calls, I was fine. I could go home and enjoy.
So when that came out, I started getting calls again, they was at my house while I was at work trying to come up to my job.
Mr.: And who were they that you are referring to?
I4: The reporters, news reporters.
I4: And um, let’s see, maybe the same day I knew it was on the tube that when it aired on the news and stuff like that, it was on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. I had to go pick up my fiancée about 9:30 that night to leave out of my house to go pick her up. I know that day I received a call from a reporter at six something. And another call at seven or eight something and then I got a tet like just before 9:00.
I had top put up my little son’s car seat in the car. So I went outside to go and do that and as soon as, right when I gets to my car, a lady just runs up, it is dark now. And at this time I notice there is not a lot of people out, I know that for sure, but she just runs up, just runs up, hey [redacted] can you do another interview, you know, but she was nice. She just ran up, you know, like it was, I was already scared at that point.
But I just, I looks at a lot of movies and stuff and it just gets me thinking like, like if anybody was trying to at that time, you know, that was a good opportunity at that time.
You know, I think of stuff like that.[emphasis added–AFB]
Ms. Are you worried about your physical safety, is that what you are trying to say?
I4:I don’t know.
Ms. If you are, that’s fine.
I4: I really don’t know, I really don’t know.
Ms.: Okay. Let’s get back to, um some more details that you can tell us.
I4: Okay, okay.
Unknown: I want to make it very clear to you though, we aren’t going to talk. We aren’t going to say we spoke with [redacted], I’m sorry.
The only thing are people that actually go to the news. So we have a whole list of people that no one knows about because we don’t tell them. So we want you to feel confident that you speak with someone today, that it stays with us. Does that make sense?
Ms.: What you hear on the news from a federal agent or the FBI, it didn’t come from us. So if that happens, or you hear rumors, call us and find out because it may just be rumors. We are not going to go to the news ever, all right?
Ms.: So if you start hearing rumors, and you start thinking something’s up, call and find out because I’m telling you right now we’re not going to go to the news.
I4: Okay, all right.
Ms.: Okay. So we were talking about this, um, the arms exchange. You are watching this from your window, is that right?
[ . . . ]
Ms.: So what [redacted] is saying, we really aren’t going to go and tell anybody that you gave us this information or that we spoke to you because when we do our investigations, we want to find out what happened. and the only way to find out what happened is if people feel that they can truly just kind of open up and let it out.
Ms.: If we end up saying oh, so and so said this, what do you think about that?
Ms.: It kind of doesn’t it, it doesn’t, it muddies the water a little bit.
I4: Yeah, yeah.
Ms.: We talked about what you know and we want you to, we really want to show you that we’re never going to go to another person and say hey, [redacted] told us this or that. It is kind of like, yes, you gave interviews before, and yeah, you were on TV, but in here, this is totally separate and apart.
Ms.: This is your opportunity to kind of lay it out. I know that you are concerned about, I think you said you saw some websites about snitches and so forth.
Ms.: And so is that from concern from the community?
I4: Uh, yeah, it could be anywhere, you know, it could be anywhere. It could just be anywhere, so I’m not even sure, you know.
Ms.: We get it. This has caused a lot of people to take sides and so forth, and we just want to figure out what happened.
Ms.: We really do.
Ms.: We want to know and what they saw.
Ms.: We are not going to say oh, you know, we got your information from because you know, nobody is going to find out.
Unknown: [redacted] is there something specific that you don’t want to tell us?
I4: Uh, no.
Unknown: Because I’m concerned that you might have been directly threatened or there is people, because you keep looking down when you talk about it.
I4: I mean, everything I’m just, nervous.
Unknown: That’s okay.
I4: I’m not comfortable, I’m just like after this, you know, uh, I think of stuff like that. I said like, you know, everything that I’ve done and like I said, I go to work, I go to the store and little kids they recognize me and a lot of people, if I get paid a nickel every time I hear the word superstar, you know, I would be rich or whatever. I didn’t know, it is just—
Unknown: You know you’re not in trouble to feel this way, you are not in this alone. You know, you know, you see the news, there is other people too that they do know the position that you are in.
And I know it is a lot different talking when the cameras are rolling and then talking to us. Because you understand that there’s the lives are affected by, specifically Michael Brown’s parents and also the lives of the officer and Ferguson police officers. So we absolutely 100 percent, I know you are a good person, you have a family.
I4: Yes, I do.
Unknown: That you are concerned with, so if there is something more going on, if you want to explain, I suspect that there is, we need to do that, okay?
Unknown: Do you trust us?
I4: Yeah, I trust you.
[ . . . ]
Ms.: Is there anything else? You seem hesitant, that’s why I keep asking you.
I4: Um, I mean, since, since, you know, I received the call, you know, about, you know, come down to the FBI or whatever, I’ve been, you know, I can’t wait to get down there, you know, I need to tell you how I feel. You know, what’s going on, it is just me, do I need to keep doing what I’m doing, go to work, you know, take care of your family, you’re doing, you’re fine. Okay, so I don’t know if I need to be told that, you know, or if I really need some help, you know. It is really, really bothering me.
Like all the way it has been over a month now, I haven’t ate good, you know.
I just checked my weight today, and I lost some pounds.
I4: At the time that I checked it was like 160, 165. I checked it today, it was like 152.
I4: I’ve been eating like horrible, like once a day, like mostly like at nighttime. You know, so the whole day I eat little snacks, I’m not getting full like, you know, everybody supposed to eat good full like two or three times a day at least, but I’m not eating much, not getting as good of sleep.
Unknown: What’s on your mind.
I4: I mean, I don’t know jut, um, maybe just what if what I already did with the reporters and, you know, I be thinking like somebody is looking for me, maybe. You know, I just have weird feelings.
Unknown: What type of persons, what do you think that you did wrong?
I4: I mean, just the point, um, I did quite a few interviews and I don’t think I only know there’s a few witnesses. I think I just notice—
Unknown: There is only a few witnesses that went to the media, there is a big difference between only a few witnesses.
I4: Okay. I don’t think they didn’t do as many as I did.
I4: But like I said, I don’t know if I’m just worried, by me doing that I just immediately felt so worried since then and not having a lawyer and seeing that on the internet.
Ms.: Are you worried about being called a snitch?
I4: No, I’m not worried about that. I’m hoping, I don’t want nothing happening to me, you know. Maybe if my information is really good enough or whatever, and you know, I don’t want nobody coming looking for me because I have good information, whatever the case.
I4: I have a weird felling.
Ms.: Well, I tell you this, first of all, and I know if you feel like your personal safety is endanger [sic], you need to call 911, but you have my name.
Unknown: Okay. If you get any threats or anything you call me. That is the main office number, you can talk to anyone.
It seems strange, indeed, that any people claiming to be interested simply in “justice,” would go to such efforts to intimidate and suppress the free and honest communication of eye witnesses with the law enforcement officers assigned to investigate a purported act of malfeasance.
As promised, here’s the full-length PDF of the official transcript of this interview:
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