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This isn’t the officer you’re looking for.
This morning, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson revealed the name of the officer who fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown—an act that triggered protests, looting, and violent clashes between civilians and law enforcement in the St. Louis suburb. His name, police say, is Darren Wilson.
The hacktivists of Anonymous had already outed the wrong man as responsible; Jackson’s comments were obviously meant as a clarification that would prevent reprisals against anyone falsely accused of the killing. Even so, there was another wrinkle—the rest of the Internet.
Now we enter the period where people misidentify which Darren Wilson they’re talking about by using Google and Facebook. Don’t do that.
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) August 15, 2014
Searching “Darren Wilson” did yield a strange result: an African-American sergeant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police and president of the Ethical Society of Police, the self-described “conscience” of the department. In that capacity, he’d spoken openly about race relations.
— Brian Rie$ (@moneyries) August 15, 2014
The odd coincidences didn’t end there: Wilson had been the target of a racist internal letter last fall. “You black [expletive],” it read. “We want you out of our station. We want your black [expletive] dead. [Expletive] your medals. If an aide call comes out for you WE WON’T RESPOND. KILL YOURSELF [expletive] OR WE WILL. Respectfully, South Patrol.”
The Darren Wilson described by Jackson, however, has been with the Ferguson department—not St. Louis police—for six years, while Sgt. Wilson is an 18-year veteran of the St. Louis Metro department. He issued a statement on Facebook in the hopes of heading off any confusion or vigilante action:
Despite this Darren Wilson’s best efforts, it will take more time for the dust to settle, and for the public to understand just who was involved in Brown’s death. In the meanwhile, Twitter’s top autocomplete suggestion for a “Darren Wilson” search is the word “black,” and a tense bafflement has set in.
Darren Wilson, what’s he look like? cause it sounds like the name of one of the three black officers Ferguson has on their force.
— V the Villain (@verocakes_) August 15, 2014
Darren Wilson sounds black as hell…
— Catt (@TheCATTastrophe) August 15, 2014
Chin up. Darren Wilson gives us a chance to have a National Conversation on black-on-black crime.
— Cuffé (@CuffyMeh) August 15, 2014
Yall know damn well if darren wilson was black they wouldve advertised it all over the news “black cop kills black thug” come on now
— QUEEN (@AriannaTheAngel) August 15, 2014
is darren wilson white or black
— 3/5th (@OGscxtty) August 15, 2014
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked. Guess we just found out.
Photo via Darren Wilson/Facebook
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'