Earlier today the police approached a man on the street in Baltimore suspected of carrying a firearm. Before the police could reach him the man took off running. During the pursuit the suspects handgun either fell, or was dropped, as he fled. The suspects gun went off when it hit the ground. Fortunately no-one was hit by the discharge. The man was tackled by the chasing officers and then, out of an abundance of caution, transported via ambulance.
No police officer fired their weapons. No-one was shot. The only firearm discharge was from the fleeing suspect as his firearm hit the ground.
Now watch this video of how a female “eye-witness”, injected her perception of the event, and quickly reported it to the media and enraged the community. Passionate, angry, tearful and adamant about what she witnessed.
Of course, none of that is true. Nothing she is describing actually took place.
According to the “witness” in the video above, the police “shot that boy for no reason”. She claimed to have seen the whole incident from close up, and she said the young black man was unarmed and was shot in the back. She seemed to think he was dead.
It turned out that he wasn’t even shot, although he may have been injured during the arrest. He is still alive, though.
Now imagine for a moment that he was dead, either at the scene or shortly afterwards. But assume he was not killed by the police but was killed by the accidental gunshot or died due to some medical condition like a bad heart. Add to that scenario that there weren’t a whole bunch or riot cops nearby who could secure and control the scene.
So a young black man is dead, and the police were present at his death. This young woman claims he was murdered by the police. She is on national television repeating that story. She sounds credible. The police are investigating. There is no autopsy report available to determine the cause of death, and won’t be one for days.
Would the local community wait patiently and calmly for a final report? Would they believe it? Or would there be riots?
The charitable explanation for the woman’s story is that eyewitness testimony is unreliable. The less-charitable explanation is that she was lying though her teeth. Either way, people could have died because of what she said. One of the main factors in wrongful convictions overturned in DNA/Innocence Project cases is eyewitness testimony.
Remember Mike Brown? The original story was that he was shot with his hands up, trying to surrender, and that the cop walked up and put a final bullet in his head as he lay on the street bleeding.
Some of you have been on juries. Some of you will be on juries some day. We are all jurors in the court of public opinion.
Think about it.