WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2021
Beachum outlines the basics: Should officers have shot Andrew Brown as he tried to escape arrest?
We can't answer that question. As a general matter, our preference would be that police officers fire their guns only when it's absolutely necessary, but it's still a bit unclear what happened in this situation.
Then too, there's prevailing law and prevailing departmental policies.
Yesterday, Pasquotank County D.A. Andrew Womble said the officers were justified in what they did. We can't evaluate that judgment, but we thought the Washington Post's Lateshia Beachum did an unusually good job this morning laying out the elementary facts of what seems to have happened that morning.
Watching CNN's endless treatment of this incident, we were struck by the channel's lazy indifference to a basic journalistic task—the basic task of describing the basic facts of what actually happened on the day in question. CNN stars were much more eager to move ahead to statements of opinion.
There was little attempt to describe what actually happened. Had Brown been sitting in his car when the deputies arrived that morning? How had he maneuvered his car as he tried to flee?
We were amazed by CNN's lazy indifference to such elementary scene-setting questions. We thought Beachum did an excellent job this morning sketching the basic outline of that morning's rapid-fire events, at least as they were outlined by Womble:
BEACHUM (5/19/21): During the news conference, Womble recounted the events of April 21:
Brown was sitting in his dark BMW on the day officers from multiple agencies attempted to serve search and arrest warrants based on alleged drug activity. Around 8:23 a.m., a detective drove his vehicle in front of Brown’s to prevent any forward movement.
Two deputies approached Brown’s car on the driver side as two others moved toward the passenger side with guns drawn as they gave commands to Brown, according to clips of the video Womble played at the news conference.
Brown threw down his phone as officers approached closer and quickly backed his car away from officers as one had his hand on Brown’s driver door handle. That deputy was pulled over the hood of the car, according to Womble.
When Brown backed up enough to the point where he was blocked by his home, he turned his steering wheel to his left toward law enforcement officers, who were scrambling to get out of the way and yelling for him to stop, according to Womble and video footage.
The first shot was fired during this moment, piercing the front windshield of Brown’s car as his vehicle continued to move. More shots followed, hitting Brown’s passenger window and rear passenger side door while his vehicle continued to accelerate across a vacant lot toward a white van occupied by an investigator. Officers fired five additional shots, which went through Brown’s rear windshield and trunk.
The total elapsed time from the first gunshot to the last was five seconds, which conflicts with eyewitness statements shared with the public, Womble noted.
Brown was slumped over when deputies opened his driver’s side door, prompting one to call out for emergency medical services, video showed.
Beachum attributed some of these statements to Womble, some to "Womble and video footage," some to what "video showed."
In once case, she mentioned an apparent problem with some eyewitness statements. In our experience, this was the clearest account from any journalist concerning the basics of what actually happened that day. You rarely see a modern journalist stick so closely to the old-fashioned who/what/when approach.
On CNN, they rush to hand you opinion. In fairness, it's almost always of the wholly infallible kind.
After that, the channel's stars let us know how much they love each other. We're supposed to believe the various statements made by these giant huge stars.