A thought on the tragic killing of a teenage black boy, Mike Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson

Verifying the truthfulness of the accounts proved to be a formidable task as I delved into an increasing number of eyewitness testimonies. Discrepancies emerged, ranging from the minutiae, such as details about their clothing, to more significant matters, like the positioning of hands, the occurrence of gunshots, and more.

The investigation commenced with the incident that led to the firing of the police officer Darrien Wilson, focusing on whether Michael had any physical interaction with the officer. Two conflicting scenarios emerged. In the first scenario, Michael's upper body appeared to move back and forth at the driver's window of the police officer's vehicle, according to the testimonies of Darrien and witness 10. In the second scenario, the police officer claimed that only Michael's right hand entered the vehicle. This perspective was corroborated by Dorian and witness 46. Witness 10 and witness 46 observed the events from a distance, hindering their ability to provide precise accounts. Darrien asserted that Michael had seriously assaulted him, whereas Dorian maintained that Michael had not used any force, except for trying to free himself from the officer's grasp. These disparities can be attributed to the multimode theory, which suggests that individuals may selectively focus their attention on specific stimuli, influenced by their perceptions and emotional states. Dorian's fear of the police may have caused him to focus on stimuli confirming his perception of police danger, potentially causing him to overlook the moment when Michael hit Darrien. Conversely, Darrien, in the midst of a panic following an assault, may have concentrated on Michael's aggressive behavior, inadvertently missing the possibility that he had retaliated. Witness 46 and witness 10 may have focused on scenes that aligned with their preconceptions, causing them to miss essential details due to their concentration on secondary aspects.

Another contentious issue was whether Michael had his hands up when approaching the officer. The police officer and witness 10 asserted that he did not, while Dorian, witness 46, and witness 64 claimed he did. The bottleneck theory can elucidate the police officer's perception, as he may have been preoccupied with Michael's right hand and overlooked the left. Michael's right hand was positioned by his side or on his waistband, as indicated by his autopsy, which revealed four gunshot wounds on that hand. Darrien recalled that Michael's left hand was clenched in a fist, making it unclear whether he intended to surrender or pose a threat. However, considering the prior assault on Darrien, he might have unconsciously reconstructed his memory to believe that Michael, with a clenched fist, was about to strike him again. Witness 10 mentioned some movement of Michael's right hand but did not reference the left, suggesting that selective attention may have influenced his perception. Other witnesses who reported that Michael had his hands raised may have had their threshold for perceiving the officer's aggression activated before the shooting, leading them to focus on Michael's left hand.

Furthermore, the direction of the police officer's vehicle was reported as eastward by only witness 46 and 64. This may be explained by the capacity theory, as these witnesses were mentally preoccupied with various stimuli. Witness 64 was playing Candy Crush at the time, and witness 46 was preoccupied with concerns about receiving another ticket, only to be abruptly thrust into a tragic situation. Consequently, they may have allocated their full mental effort to the significant event, disregarding the SUV's direction.

Additionally, the reported timings from the first gunshot to Michael falling to the ground varied widely, ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This variability suggests that our automatic processing of temporal information may not be as reliable as we assume.

In navigating the intricate web of human perception and memory, the mosaic of eyewitness testimonies presents both a puzzle and an opportunity. Discrepancies, from the minutiae to pivotal actions, offer a glimpse into the multifaceted realm of cognitive processes and selective attention. This complexity is further highlighted by contrasting accounts regarding Michael's hand gestures, the direction of the police officer's vehicle, and the marked variations in reported time intervals. These nuances underscore the need for meticulous investigation and reliance on corroborative evidence, as the quest for truth amidst the intricacies of human memory remains an intellectual endeavor well worth the effort.