WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart: ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Was ‘Built on a Lie’

AP Photo/The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Justin L. Stewart
AP File Photo/The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Justin L. Stewart

In a stunning reversal, progressive Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart admitted Monday that the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra adopted by Black Lives Matter protesters is “built on a lie.”

Capehart had previously written about the shooting of Michael Brown on at least two occasions. Last December, in the wake of the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Capehart wrote that he was enraged by the “presumption of danger and guilt foisted on black boys and teenagers.”

Capehart didn’t spend much time in the piece discussing Brown’s behavior prior to the shooting, but he did suggest that Brown had been a victim of “fears and prejudices.” Capehart also seemed to cast doubt on Officer Wilson’s testimony in which he referred to Brown as “aggravated” and “angry.”

On Monday, Capehart announced his new piece on Twitter by saying it was, “The hardest piece I’ve ever had to write.” It amounts to a reversal of his previous stance and an admission that, under the circumstances, Wilson’s shooting of Brown was “justified.”

This month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown…

What DOJ found made me ill. Wilson knew about the theft of the cigarillos from the convenience store and had a description of the suspects. Brown fought with the officer and tried to take his gun. And the popular hands-up storyline, which isn’t corroborated by ballistic and DNA evidence and multiple witness statements, was perpetuated by Witness 101. In fact, just about everything said to the media by Witness 101, whom we all know as Dorian Johnson, the friend with Brown that day, was not supported by the evidence and other witness statements.

Capehart takes several excerpts from the DOJ report which demonstrate in detail how witness 101, Dorian Johnson, misled him and many others. In fact, it was an interview Dorian Johnson gave to MSNBC which Capehart cites as the start of the “hands up, don’t shoot” mantra embraced by Black Lives Matter protesters. But Capehart admits, citing the DOJ report, the claim “was wrong, built on a lie.”

Despite his reversal on the facts of the shooting, Capehart is not changing course on his support for the Black Lives Matter movement. He says the truth of the shooting does not “discredit” the movement because the movement was based on a series of shootings by police of unarmed black men. Also, there is the other DOJ report which found that the Ferguson Police Department had, in fact, violated the civil rights of black citizens.

Nevertheless, Capehart’s reversal was seen as a betrayal by some within the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece also had some notable supporters, including Donna Brazile.