Officer Wilson: “At this point I’m like . . . this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun.”
As promised, the transcripts of the Ferguson Grand Jury have been released to the public. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the transcripts amount to 4,799 pages. That’s not a typo: four thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine pages. So, it’s going to take a little time to work through and present in a useful form here.
In this post I present the narrative of Police Officer Darren Wilson as he recounts to the Grand Jury his encounter with Mike Brown. I do so in abridged form, meaning that I’ve stripped out other people’s statements to make the narrative more concise and easier to read. All of the text provided is, however, exactly as presented in the official transcript (baring, perhaps, an occasional typo here or there.)
To make this more than a mere re-packaging of the official transcript, I suggest it might be a useful exercise as you read through Wilson’s narrative to ask yourself whether it meets the required five elements of the law of self-defense. (Strictly speaking, just four of those elements apply, as there is no duty to retreat for a police officer in the performance of his duties.) These four elements, then, are:
- Innocence: Wilson must not have been the unlawful physical aggressor.
- Imminence: Wilson must have been facing a threat that is either about to occur right now, or is in actual progress.
- Proportionality: To be justified in the use of deadly force in self-defense Wilson must have been facing a threat of death or grave bodily harm.
- Reasonableness: Wilson’s perceptions, decisions, and actions must have been those of a reasonable and prudent police officer in the same circumstances, with the same capabilities, possessing the same specialized knowledge, and under the same stresses of an existential fight.
Keep in mind that if Wilson had been indicted, at trial the prosecution would have been required to disprove any one of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. As it happened, of course, the fact the the Grand Jury found not even probable cause to indict means that disproving self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt would have been simply impossible on the facts in evidence.
Wilson’s narrative begins here with him returning from a call to assist a family with an ill baby. I have not interjected my own comments into his narrative, but rather defer to Wilson’s own words to represent his version of events. I have, however, included the schematic below (and accompanying legend) as a useful reference, as well as pictures of Wilson’s service pistol and his injuries, inserted into the appropriate segments of his narrative.
While on the sick case call, a call came out for a stealing in progress from the local market on West Florissant, that the suspects traveling towards QT. I didn’t hear the entire call, I was on my portable radio, which isn’t exactly the best. I did hear that a suspect was wearing a black shirt and that a box of Cigarillos was stolen.
It was not my call, I heard the call.
Magazine pouches sit right here, my weapon [service pistol] is on my right hip, I have an ASP that sits kind of behind me and kind of to the right and then a set of handcuffs, another set of handcuffs, my OC spray or mace is on this [left] side and then my radio and that’s it.
I carry a Sig Sauer, a P229 .40 caliber. It has 12 in the magazine and one goes in the chamber, so a total of 13.
I normally don’t carry a taser. We only have a select amount. Usually there is one available, but I usually elect not to carry one. It is not the most comfortable thing. They are very large, I don’t have a lot of room in the front for it to be positioned.
I see them [Brown and Johnson] walking down the middle of the street. and first thing that struck me was they’re walking down the middle of the street. I had already seen a couple of cars trying to pass, but they couldn’t have traffic normal because they were in the middle, so one had to stop to let the car go around and then another car would come. And the next thing I noticed was the size of the individuals because either the first one was really small or the second one was really big.
The next thing I notice was that Brown had bright yellow socks on that had green marijuana leaves as a pattern on them. They were the taller socks that go halfway up your shin.
As I approached them, I stopped a couple of feet in front of Johnson as they are walking towards me, I am going towards them. And I allowed him to keep walking towards my window, which was down. As Johnson came around my driver’s side mirror I said, “why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk.” He kept walking, as he is walking he said, “We are almost to our destination.”
As he said that, he kept walking and Brown was starting to come around the mirror and as he came around the corner I said, “well, what’s wrong with the sidewalk.” Brown then replied, um, it has vulgar language.
Brown then replied, “fuck what you have to say.” And when he said that, it drew my attention totally to Brown. It was a very unusual and not expected response from a simple request.
When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is in his right hand, his hand is full of Cigarillos. And that’s when it clicked for me, because I now saw the Cigarillos, I looked in my mirror, I did a doublecheck that Johnson was wearing a black shirt, these are the two from the stealing.
And they kept walking, as I said, they never stopped, never got on the sidewalk, they stayed in the middle of the road.
So I got on my radio and Frank 21 is my call sign that day, I said Frank 21 I’m on Canfield with two, send me another car.
I then placed my car in reverse and backed up and I backed up just past them and then angled my vehicle, the back of my vehicle to kind of cut them off kind to keep them somewhat contained.
As I did that, I go to open the door and I say, hey, come here for a minute to Brown. As I’m opening the door he turns, faces me, looks at me and says, “what the fuck are you going to do about it,” and shuts my door, slammed it shut. I haven’t even got it open enough to get my let out, it was only a few inches.
I then looked at him and told him to get back and he was just starting at me, almost like to intimidate me or to overpower me. The intense face he had was just not what I expected from any of this.
I then opened my door again and used my door to push him backwards, and while I’m doing that I tell him to “get the fuck back,” and then I use my door to push him.
He then grabs my door again and shuts my door. At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle. His head was higher than the top of my car. And I see him ducking and as he is ducking, his hands are up and he is coming in my vehicle.
I had shielded myself in this type of manner and kind of looked away, so I don’t remember seeing him come at me, but I was hit right here in the side of the face with a fist. I don’t think it was a full-on swing, I think it was a full-on swing but not a full shot. I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face.
After he hit me then, it stopped for a second. He kind of like, I remember getting hit and he kind of like grabbed and pulled, and then it stopped. When I looked up, if this is my car door, I’m sitting here facing that way, he’s here. He turns like this and now the Cigarillos I see in his left hand. He’s going like this and he says, “hey, man, hold these.”
I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to get out to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car any more. And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.
And as I’m trying to open the door is when, and I can’t really get it open because he is standing only maybe 6 inches from my door, but as I was trying to pull the handle, I see his hand coming back around like this and he hit me with this part of his right here, just a full swing all the way back around and hit me right here. (indicating)
After he did that, next thing I remember is how do I get this guy away from me. What do I to not get beaten inside my car.
I considered using my mace, however, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my left hand, which is blocking my face to go for it. I couldn’t reach around on my right to get it and if I would have gotten it out, the chances of it being effective were slim to none. His hands were in front of his face, it would have blocked the mace from hitting him in the face and if any of that got on me, I know what it does to me and I would have been out of the game. I wear contacts, if that touches any part of my eyes, then I can’t see at all.
Like I said, I don’t carry a taser, I considered my asp [expandable baton], but to get that out since I kind of sit on it, I usually have to lean forward and pull myself forward to the steering wheel to get it out. Again, I wasn’t willing to let go of the one defense I had against being hit. The whole time, I can’t tell you if he was swinging at me or grabbing me or pushing me or what, but there was just stuff going on and I was looking down figuring out what to do.
Also, when I was grabbing my asp, I knew if I did even get it out, I’m not going to be able to expand it inside the car or am I going to be able to make a swing that will be effective in any manner.
Next I considered my flashlight. I keep that on the passenger side of the car. I wasn’t going to, again, reach over like this to grab it and then even if I did grab it, would it even be effective. We are so close and confined.
So the only other option I thought I had was my gun. I drew my gun, I turned. It is kind of hard to describe it, I turn and I go like this. He is standing here. I said,” get back or I’m going to shoot you.”
He immediately grabs my gun and says, “you are too much of a pussy to shoot me.” [emphasis added–AFB]
My gun was basically pointed this way. I’m in my car, he’s here, it is pointed this way, but he grabs it with his right hand, not his left, he grabs with his right one and he twists it and then he digs it down into my hip.
I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger, and the, I’ve already taken two to the face and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right. . . . Or at least unconscious and then who knows what would happen to me after that.
I had a swollen right cheek, my left they said was swollen, I had scratches around my hairline in the back and I think on the side of my heck, but that’s all that I remember.
He grabs my gun, says, “you are too much of a pussy to shoot me.” The gun goes down into my hip and at that point I thought I was getting shot. I can feel his fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger and I distinctly remember envisioning a bullet going into my leg. I thought that was the next step.
I’m not paying attention to him, all I can focus on is just this gun in my leg. I was able to kind of shift slightly like this and then push it down, because he is pushing down like to keep it pinned on my leg. So when I slid, I let him use his momentum to push it down and it was kind of pointed to where the seat buckle would attach on the floorboard on the side of my car. Next thing I remember putting my left hand on it like this, putting my elbow into the back of my seat and just pushing with all I could forward.
I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again.
At this point I’m like why isn’t this working, this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun. I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time.
When I see the glass come up, it comes, a chunk about that big comes across my right hand and then I notice I have blood on the back of my hand.
After seeing the blood on my hand, I looked at him and he was, this is my car door, he was here and he kind of stepped back and went like this.
And then after he did that, he looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks 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. Last thing I saw was this [fist] coming at me.
[Did he hit you at that time?] Yes. So I pulled the trigger, it just clicks that time. Without even looking, I just grab the top of my gun, the slide and I racked it, and I put my, still not looking just holding my hand up, I pulled the trigger again, it goes off.
When I look back after that, I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him. I then get out of my car. As I’m getting out of the car I tell dispatch, “shots fired, send me more cars.”
We start running. . . When I passed the second one [car], about that same time he stopped running and he is at that light pole. So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground.
He turns, and when he looks at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.
As he is coming toward me, I tell, keep telling him to get on the ground, he doesn’t. I shoot a series of shots. I don’t know how many I shot, I just know I shot.
I know I missed a couple, I don’t know how many, but I know I hit him at least once because I saw his body kind of jerk or flinched [sic].
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 start backpedaling 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 made that I’m shooting at him.
Well, he keeps coming at me after that again, during the pause I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground, he still keeps coming at me, gets about 8 to 10 feet away. At this point I’m backing up pretty rapidly, I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me.
And he had started to lean forward as he got that close, like he was going to just tackle me, just go right through me.
His hand is in a fist at his side, this one is in his waistband under his shirt, and he was like this. Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me. And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites [sic] 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.
When he fell, he fell on his face. And I remember his feet coming up, like he had so much momentum carrying him forward that when he fell, his feet kind of came up a little bit and then they rested.
At that point I got back on the radio and said,” send me a supervisor and every car you got.”
The above is an abridged version of Darren Wilson’s narrative as told to the Ferguson Grand Jury (the full-text of his narrative is in the PDF embedded at the bottom of this post).
Wilson’s testimony goes on for some length as he directly answers questions posed to him by the Grand Jury members. I will cover that second half in my next post.
I’m continuing to work my way through the 4,799 pages of Grand Jury transcripts. There will be MUCH more to come, including a great deal of hilarity from Dorian Johnson’s sworn testimony to the Grand Jury. I’ll include the relevant portion of the Grand Jury transcripts with each post.
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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.