Probably the most oft quoted words in relation to the outcome of the Michael Brown case I have heard and read are, “*GASP* That poor kid was unarmed!”
What a tragic idea. That a poor, defenseless child *cough* was gunned down by an overzealous, racist cop. I’m not going to say that has never happened in the course of history, but it did not happen here. Take a quick detour off site and read the testimony of Darren Wilson given to the Grand Jury on September 16, 2014. We’ll continue this discussion when you get back….;)
I would like to introduce the term ‘disparity of force’. Unless one is familiar with legal terms relating to self defense, most people have never heard this phrase. It may be used during an investigation of a violent crime to decide on the severity of the charges, or in a self defense situation to determine whether an appropriate use of force up to and including lethal force was applied when dealing with a threat. Let me give you a few definitions, along with a couple of examples, to introduce this important concept.
Disparity of force comes in many forms;
~force of numbers (Where an individual may face a multiple of attackers)
~size and strength
~male to female (generally speaking, there are exceptions)
~adult to child
~an able-bodied person to a handicapped person
~position of disadvantage, and finally,
~a highly skilled hand-to-hand combat fighter against one who has no such advantage.
To illustrate with just a couple of examples, and to gain the proper frame of thinking, let’s first examine the brutal idea of an adult attacking a child. I’m not talking about an adult versus an 18 year old, 285 lb, 6’5″ “child”, I am referring to an 8, or a 5, or a 2 year old child. Few news items are as emotionally charged as the story of an adult inflicting great bodily harm by beating, burning, strangling, torturing or sexually assaulting a small, helpless child, too weak to protect him/herself, escape or fight back. It’s fairly easy to communicate the concept of disparity of force with an example such as this, is it not?
Another easily understood example would be the ‘male to female’ model. It is generally acknowledged that males physically possess more lean muscle mass than females. This physiological difference is obvious in most cases, and in the context of self defense has been historically documented in many incidences of male on female violence. (That is not to say there are no cases of female on male violence, we are not addressing that here.) In addition to the physical differences, men can be more aggressive and dominating, where women are traditionally, well, feminine. Documented examples, complete with photos, such as this one, also serve to make a point of the unfair advantage most males have over females.
Now that you are more familiar with the term, let’s examine the case in Ferguson a little more in depth. If you read the testimony of Darren Wilson regarding his tragic interaction with the ‘unarmed’ Michael Brown, I would like to point out at least two disparity of force issues he was dealing with. First, he was trapped inside his vehicle by the much larger ‘boy’, which was most certainly a ‘position of disadvantage’. In other words, he was confined to a small area from which there was no escape as Mr Brown pummeled his face. Mr Wilson noted at this point that there was the possibility of his being knocked unconscious, and then, doubting the chance that the punishment he was enduring would come to a halt when his attacker saw that he could no longer fight back, he made the decision to draw his gun in an attempt to stop the threat. Even then, Mr Brown had brute force advantage and was able to grab Mr Wilson’s gun and force it into his leg, all the while trying to get his finger in the trigger guard. (which, by the way, would make him ‘armed’, but fortunately for Mr Wilson, he did not gain access to the gun) After regaining control of his firearm, Mr Wilson was able to fire two shots, overcoming with quick thinking the malfunctions consistent with someone grabbing a semi-automatic gun and restricting slide movement or shifting it out of battery. After the shots, Mr Brown ran away a short distance, then for an unknown reason, turned back toward Mr Wilson, lowered his head and charged him, (while most likely holding up his pants with one hand). Mr Wilson had to have been in fear of crippling bodily harm considering the 75lb weight difference between him and Mr Brown. Which, by the way, would illustrate the second disparity of force position, which would be size and strength.
Put yourself in the shoes of Darren Wilson. Imagine being trapped in a vehicle while a lumbering, out of control man is pounding your head. (“Hulk Hogan versus a 5 year old”, was the way Mr Wilson described his encounter with the bulky arm of Mr Brown.) What would you have done? Don’t be too certain unless you have been in a similar situation. After enduring the abuse and getting out of the vehicle, the still active threat then charges you with all the menace of a raging bull. Do you really think Mr Wilson should have just patted the rump of said bull as he lightly stepped out of his path? It was obvious to Mr Wilson as he was being charged that he was going to get a continuing of the brutal beating that he narrowly escaped from earlier, only this time, in the event he was incapacitated, Mr Brown would then have possession of his gun, which could potentially endanger the lives of others.
An “un-armed man”?
In this case, Mr. brown was clearly ‘armed’ with size, weight, an advantage in position, and from the sounds of it, a menacing attitude. Obviously, the myth of the “unarmed man” being spread so liberally by certain individuals and groups is easily debunked by the facts of the case. But then, maybe the facts are just an inconvenient truth to those good folk of Fergusen who have obviously confused gang-like retribution with justice.
My heart goes out to Darren Wilson. He survived a vicious and unprovoked assault both by Mr Brown and the media, and his life will never be the same.