The Washington Post’s end of the year list of lies told in 2015 ranks “hands up, don’t shoot” one of the biggest of the year.
Those words, which rose to the public consciousness following the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, rang hollow with federal investigators. As the Post first noted in its March 19 fact check, a St. Louis County jury could not confirm testimonies to the effect that Brown had been holding his hands above his head and telling Wilson not to shoot him. A Department of Justice investigation released earlier in March could not corroborate those details, either, after interviewing roughly 40 witnesses.
The phrase became a “rallying cry” for the police reform movement around the country. The phrase was reported to be the last words of Michael Brown before he was shot and killed by Officer Wilson.
However, forensic evidence showed that it was Brown who went after the police officer’s gun while the police officer was still inside the police car. Video also surfaced of Brown before the altercation, showing him knocking around a clerk in a convenience store before he stole some tobacco products.
Other opportunists capitalized on the falsehood, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who raised their hands over their head on the House floor and the Saint Louis Rams football team, who ran out onto the football field with their hands over their head during pregame introductions.