A writer from liberal website Vox.com called out Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris on Monday for falsely claiming former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown during an incident that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
On the five-year anniversary of Brown’s death Friday, Warren said Wilson, who is white, “murdered” Brown during an Aug. 9, 2014, traffic stop.
Harris also said Brown, who is black, was murdered.
Conservative commentators criticized the remarks, noting that many of the initial claims about the incident have proved false. The critiques noted that there were no witnesses to corroborate activists’ claims that Brown held his hands up in surrender while yelling “Don’t shoot” at Wilson.
Some activists alleged in the days after the shooting that Wilson shot Brown in the back, though an autopsy did not support that claim. It was also not revealed until days after protests began that Brown was a suspect in a robbery at a convenience store just minutes before he encountered Wilson.
While conservative commentary on the Warren/Harris tweets might be easily dismissed, Vox’s German Lopez gave the critique some support from the Left.
“Five years after the shooting, though, major presidential campaigns are still getting the details wrong,” Lopez wrote in an explainer of Warren and Harris’s tweets.
As Lopez notes, the Justice Department released a report March 4, 2015, that exonerated Wilson of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting. The report, which was released during Eric Holder’s tenure, found systemic issues with Ferguson’s police department, but said that Wilson reasonably feared for his life during his encounter with Brown.
“For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed,” reads the final line of the 86-page report.
Wilson stopped Brown and his friend while they were walking in the middle of the road in Ferguson. During the stop, Wilson realized Brown might be the suspect from a robbery that had occurred just minutes earlier. According to the DOJ report, after Wilson verbally confronted Brown from his police SUV, Brown reportedly assaulted Wilson while he was still inside his vehicle. During a struggle, Wilson’s service weapon discharged. Forensic evidence showed gun powder residue on Brown’s hand.
Brown ran from the squad car while Wilson pursued. Witnesses said Brown stopped running at some point, and began moving toward Wilson. The officer opened fire, hitting Brown six times. Witness accounts differed on Brown’s movement toward Wilson. Some witnesses said Brown was walking slowly toward the officer, while others said he was running.