Let’s be frank — both Mike Brown and LaVoy Finicum were suspected criminals, and both were very likely guilty of what they were alleged to have done.
In Brown’s case, it’s almost certain he was the one who strong-arm robbed the convenience store for less than five dollars worth of tobacco product. Whether not he assaulted Officer Darren Wilson — it most certainly seems he did — having personally read all of Wilson’s published grand jury testimony I believe to this day that Wilson was not doing anything remotely resembling a “lawful arrest” of Brown and provoked the unarmed black teenager into the confrontation that ultimately left Wilson an ex-cop and Mike Brown a shameful statistic.
Then there’s LaVoy Finicum — the Lord of the Tarp. Okay, look, I don’t mean to mock the dead…but I mean, are we really going to compare a kid who stole some cigarillos and very likely got provoked into a fight by a guy who should never have been a cop to an armed, pissed off dude who openly said he’d fight to the death if he had to? We’ll never know, but it seems like Brown didn’t leave his house hoping for a deadly confrontation, but Finicum most surely did.
The comparison of the two, while valid, should show that it’s a really dumb comparison to make, actually. For starters, and this is is really where the comparison should end, Finicum was armed. With a gun. Reports are that he reached into his waistband before he was killed. Unlike Mike Brown, who was unarmed until he drew his last breath, Finicum had a gun, and had even made a name for himself while being interviewed by the media and telling them he’d not go without a fight. I’m not saying the FBI agents who shot Finicum knew this, or should have even taken it into consideration, but in the court of public opinion, which is where we usually find solutions to problems like these after intense public debate, everything should be taken into account.
Once you determine the main difference between Mike Brown and LaVoy Finicum was that one had a gun, and the other didn’t, you can see why the argument is a silly one its face. Nobody should be defending Brown for going after Wilson, no matter how much I believe after reading Wilson’s testimony that he provoked the attack. Assaulting a cop, while not a felony that carries the punishment of death, is still not advisable in any situation. But the fact remains that Brown’s a textbook case of police overuse of deadly force, and one that should be used to teach our law enforcement agents the proper way to uphold the law and the alleged perpetrator’s constitutional rights.
Neither man was part of a peaceful protest, that’s for sure. So what we have to do as a society when looking at both cases is figure out what the optimal outcome would have been, and then figure out who is most to blame for that not happening. In all cases, we want alleged criminals taken alive so we can put them on trial. So in both cases we have a massive failure of the system to do its job, but for drastically different reasons.
Mike Brown’s interaction, altercation, and attempted arrest was a failure largely on the part of Wilson. He provoked the attack. He parked his car in such a way as to boxed him in. Two times he could have chosen non-lethal force to try and subdue Brown and both times he chose not to de-escalate. By all accounts the attempted arrest of LaVoy Finicum started with a traffic stop, there was at least one warrant out of his arrest (unlike Brown) and at least one eyewitness account says that he had a gun and was reaching into his waistband when he was shot. There really is no comparison of the two, beyond the fact that both were alleged perpetrators.
Finicum was a threat to every single law enforcement agent as long as he had his gun. And since he made national headlines brandishing his gun to the world, then I think it’s safe to assume he wasn’t going to go along without a fight, or you know, we could take his words for it.
Brown’s death is the symbol of a police force overly-militarized and very probably racially calibrated to ignore constitutional tenets. Finicum is the poster boy for why you don’t brandish a weapon and publicly proclaim yourself above the law. Our system is as flawed as anything human can be, but to pretend as if the two cases are similar beyond the very superficial is to ignore the entire context of both scenarios, which robs both of any meaning.
Neither man will be sainted, but only one was an unarmed alleged perpetrator, and only one was armed and had previously declared himself immune to the justice system’s machinations. Let’s stop kidding ourselves about who should be more likely to die, because the question itself is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.