In a case with not even the faintest of silver linings, it's no surprise that the initial batch of letters responding to the announcement that Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson would face no charges in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown reflect the public malaise caused by the tragedy.
Dozens of readers have sent us their letters since St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch made the announcement in a speech in which he also blasted media coverage of Brown's death last August and of its aftermath, and vouched for the work done by his office and the grand jury.
As expected, nearly all of the letters express anger, though they direct their indignation at different players in this case. Those who wanted to see Wilson put on trial raise doubts about McCulloch's handling of the case; others apparently more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Wilson urge public acceptance of the grand jury decision and lament the events that they say made Brown's death unavoidable.
Several readers bring up race -- Wilson is white, Brown was black -- although that is by no means the dominant theme of the discussion so far. Readers disappointed by the grand jury decision mostly focus on police brutality and a justice system that they say readily defers to law enforcement. In fact, the majority of those who bring up race do so to bolster their case that Brown being black had little relevance in either Wilson's decision-making as a street cop or in the grand jury deliberations.
Some of the letters here may appear in print later this week.
Valerie Okorocha of Pasadena says law enforcement is teaching young African Americans a bad lesson:
The St. Louis County grand jury's decision is no surprise to many of us. I am reminded of a Bob Dylan song with a slight variation that summarizes my pain and reaction to this decision:
"How many unarmed black men have to die before we call it a crime"?
I would ask Americans to consider what message brutal attacks on young African Americans say to young people of color about police training and their civil rights.
One of the many issues facing young people who are from financially struggling, often single-parent households is not being held responsible for their actions due to a parent feeling overwhelmed with responsibility or having few resources. How ironic that this same failure to be held accountable is now being applied to the police who killed them.
Diamond Bar resident George Pinnell says cooperating with police might have saved Brown's life:
It is always a tragic loss for someone to lose a loved one in an altercation with police. If the people protesting in Ferguson and elsewhere would look at the facts of the case, it would seem that Brown's skin color was totally irrelevant. The fact that Brown would apparently not respond to an officer's request is the reason he is not alive today.
If confronted by a police officer, it is always wise to cooperate. To do otherwise is an invitation for an unhappy ending. Education at home and in our schools to respect law enforcement is an obvious starting point for teaching our young, no matter the color of their skin.
The forensic evidence and witness testimony guided that grand jury. Had the facts been different, the grand jury decision would have likewise been different, and Wilson would have been charged as he should have been.
But the altercation did not happen that way.
John D. Kelley of Santa Barbara questions the St. Louis prosecutor's impartiality:
I watched St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announce the result of grand jury deliberations. I heard his platitudes and his recitation of carefully selected facts; however, his pro-police bias was absolutely clear.
As he has in the past, McCulloch acted as a de facto defense attorney for a police officer involved in a fatal shooting. He used the grand jury process to shield Wilson from legal accountability for Brown's death.
There will be no trial so there is no possibility of a just decision in this "closed" case.
John Hazlet of Pasadena calls for better news coverage:
We continue to see exhaustive, histrionic media coverage of emotional reactions to events in Ferguson. Can we have some straight factual reporting of the sequence of events that led up to Wilson shooting Brown?
Pacific Palisades resident Reuben Rosloff identifies a pattern of police misbehavior:
Officers shoot women delivering the morning newspaper, shoot a youngster pointing a toy gun, or shoot in any situation in which it turns out they were mistaken in believing their lives were in danger. These people are guilty of poor judgment and should be invited to find another line of work -- one in which poor judgment doesn't result in loss of life.
Bob Wallace of Las Vegas congratulates the grand jury:
The members of the St. Louis County grand jury deserve America's highest praise. They truly showed courage under very stressful conditions. Reason triumphed over hysteria, truth triumphed over obfuscation, and facts trumped falsehoods.
Justice has prevailed. It is a great day for the American justice system.