Writing for the New Yorker, Jake Halpern has turned in the first extensive interview with Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Mo., cop who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown. In conversations at his home, hidden somewhere “on the outskirts of St. Louis,” Wilson reveals he’s not exactly haunted by second thoughts about what happened: He “did his job” that day, and just wants to move on with his life.
According to the Department of Justice report on the circumstances of Brown’s death, Wilson is right: the shooting was defensible and he didn’t violate Brown’s civil rights. That’s the Justice Department report Wilson would prefer to focus on, not the second one that determined the Ferguson police and courts—of which he was a part—are racist and heavily weighted against black people.
Wilson repeatedly insists to Halpern that race wasn’t a part of how he did his job—“Everyone is so quick to jump on race. It’s not a race issue.”—but, in the most telling part of the profile, goes on to describe a blind, black, single mother who was powerless to stop her kids from causing trouble and allegedly committing crimes, no matter how many times Wilson tried to catch them carrying weapons.
“They ran all over the mom. They didn’t respect her, so why would they respect me?” He added, “They’re so wrapped up in a different culture than—what I’m trying to say is, the right culture, the better one to pick from.”
Halpern calls Wilson out on the obvious racial undertones of this “better culture” talk, but he insists it’s not racial, it’s just “the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities.”
“I am really simple in the way that I look at life,” Wilson said. “What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can’t base my actions off what happened to him.” Wilson said that police officers didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the past. “We can’t fix in thirty minutes what happened thirty years ago,” he said. “We have to fix what’s happening now.
Meanwhile, Halpern points out there’s a bit of hypocrisy in Wilson’s focus on the wrong upbringing—(on Michael Brown: “Do I think he had the best upbringing? No. Not at all.”)—in that Wilson’s mother, Tonya Dean, frequently wrote bad checks and stole money to pay back debts.
He worried that she would steal what little money he made working summer jobs, so he opened two bank accounts. The first, which had almost no money in it, was a decoy. He put his real earnings in the second, secret account. Wilson also tried to preëmpt his mother’s stealing. Once, he warned a friend’s parents not to let her inside their house, because she would surely find a way to steal their identities and max out their credit cards.
Dean was loving, Wilson said. “She never wanted to hurt us.” He added, “But when it came to money she was going to get it, one way or another.”
His mother died in 2002, possibly by suicide.
But Michael Brown’s upbringing wasn’t “the best,” and Wilson prefers not to think of him, except when he has to because he’s being sued by Brown’s family. He doesn’t want to keep “living in the past,” after all.
“You do realize that his parents are suing me?” he said. “So I have to think about him.” He went on, “Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point.
Asked whether Brown was a bad guy, Wilson answered, “I only knew him for those forty-five seconds in which he was trying to kill me, so I don’t know.”
Darren Wilson noted that another inconvenience he’s suffered as a result of his killing of Michael Brown—other than occasionally being forced to think about Michael Brown, as a person—is that he has to be pickier about where he eats out.
“We try to go somewhere—how do I say this correctly?—with like-minded individuals,” he told Halpern. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.”