Missouri Riots: Let the Facts Determine the Outcome

The world is outraged over the shooting of a black teenager in suburban St. Louis over an altercation with police. The headlines scream that police “executed an innocent young black man” and the head of the St. Louis NAACP says “another teenaged boy has been slaughtered by law enforcement.” ABC News quotes the mother of the deceased boy saying the cop who shot him should get the death penalty, and the Washington Post describes him as a “gentle giant.” But the facts in the case are still virtually unknown to the lynch mob, as well as to the world. Sounds a little like justice in the South in the 1950s.

“One of the worst incidents of racism since the Rodney King case,” claims another innocent-of-the-facts know-it-all. But so far, we don’t know who the cop in question did the shooting was, whether he was black or white, nor do we know much more about what triggered the incident. But facts about the deceased are beginning to leak out, although they are not being reported. He has been reported to be a member of the Bloods, a gang made up largely of young African Americans whose principal activities are reported to be murder, drug trafficking, robbery and extortion. But that isn’t on the front page, and you’ll have to dig deep to find any reference to it.

And relating it to the Rodney King case? That incident had nothing to do with race, at least not until race-baiters instigated riots after the four officers were acquitted -- riots that killed 53 people, injured over 2,000 and destroyed $1 billion worth of property in Los Angeles. The California legal system, being what it is, leads to the assumption that the jury knew the facts of the case, which is why the cops were acquitted. The-race hustlers and the rioters did not.

And we hear that "civil rights leader" Al Sharpton is in St. Louis to see what sort of trouble he can stir up--a sure sign that the race baiters think there is some sort of advantage that will come out of the riots.

I published Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair by Stacey Koon, the officer in charge of the Rodney King arrest, and I organized and managed the defense fund that paid his legal bills. As it turned out, the arrest in that 1992 case was almost entirely done by the rules of the LAPD. King was pursued by police in a high-speed chase after speeding on the freeway in Los Angeles and finally cornered. Intoxicated and high on PCP, he refused to exit the car, resisted arrest and attacked the police officers, who tased him and then hit him with their batons until they could subdue and hand cuff him. Nobody was hurt, nobody initially raised the race issue, and but for the video that a citizen-witness happened to take, the case would have disappeared into obscurity and Rodney King would have probably spent some time in the LA pokey.

But the video became the news sensation of the year, the Los Angeles riots were the most serious urban riots of the decade, and Rodney King became a household word. The Justice Department later re-charged the four officers for violating King’s civil rights, tried them again, and the jury, fearing another riot, split the baby by convicting two of the cops Solomon-style and acquitting the others. Even the federal judge, who said the case was not technically double jeopardy but did smack of unfairness, ruled that most of what the police did was legal and appropriate. As it turned out, the facts were a far cry from what excited the race-baiters or incited the riots.

Like the Rodney King case, the rioters in Missouri and their inciters have no idea what the facts are, nor do they care. Instead, they have found a national audience, a drooling press corps only too happy to cover their indiscretions and outrageous charges, and a political class ready to fall into line and indict the officers. 

An official investigation is ongoing, which will necessarily take some time, and which will likely gather all the relevant facts. According to Ron Hosko, recently retired Assistant Director of the Criminal Division of the FBI (and president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, the organization of which I am Chairman), “the Missouri case, like others, will be worked by agents from the FBI field office covering the territory. They will work with prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office (in St. Louis) and the Civil Rights Section at the Justice Department. Managers from FBIHQ, Criminal Investigative Division, Civil Rights Unit, will also oversee the case. According to reports, the federal investigation will not supplant the ongoing local inquiry. It is common for federal charges to be held in abeyance while local charges move forward, assuming someone is charged.” Hosko adds that the investigation will not be influenced by politics but will be thorough and unbiased.

In Chicago, just 300 miles from St. Louis, 82 people were shot in Chicago, 14 fatally, over the Fourth of July weekend, including five shot by police, and according to the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago has become the poster child for urban violence, fueled by gangs and involving drive-by shootings or attacks from cars on other vehicles.” Although the statistics are not reported, a safe guess would be that of the 82 people shot, virtually all were black. But where is the outrage? Where was Jesse Jackson (who would only have to go a few blocks from his high-rise condo to the South Side)? And where was Al Sharpton? Where were the riots? Perhaps Obama’s hometown is not a convenient place for race riots, particularly where race was not supposed to be an issue after Obama’s election. 

Jumping to judgment rarely solves anything, and it certainly won’t in the Ferguson, Mo. case. The officer in the center of the controversy may or may not be indicted for excessive use of force, and if he is, he may or may not be convicted. But whatever the facts, the world will be better off letting the investigation and then the legal system take its course, and when it does, respecting the result.

Alfred S. Regnery is the former President and Publisher of Regnery Publishing and now Chairman of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund


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