"Well I'm gonna take my random drive to Florisant," [sic] Sandra McElroy wrote in a diary entry labelled August 9. "Need to understand the Black race better so I can stop calling Blacks niggers and start calling them people." Her exploration took her 30 miles to Ferguson, Missouri.
Months later, the 45-year-old would testify that she has a history of head injuries, memory lapses, and racist remarks. And now an investigation by the Smoking Gun has revealed McElroy to be "Witness 40" in the grand jury proceedings over the death of Michael Brown, which she confirmed to the outlet on Tuesday. Although McElroy claimed that the diary passage was real, the report suggests that it was part of a story invented to dovetail with the account of Officer Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Brown in August.
Since the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, McElroy has only been known as Witness 40, a favourite of the cop's defenders. But now there's strong evidence that Sean Hannity's darling might not have even been at the scene that day.
She also might be one of the reasons that a Ferguson grand jury didn't indict a killer cop.
McElroy's history of being a public whackjob apparently began in 2001, when she was seriously injured in a head-on car collision. She would have memory problems thereafter and would file for bankruptcy in part due to medical bills. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the Smoking Gun found, she berated an attorney's secretary with racial slurs.
In 2007, McElroy lied on local TV about knowing a child abductor and about giving the police information about him, the outlet discovered. About a year ago, she apparently posted comments on YouTube comparing black people to monkeys. These and numerous other incidents suggest that McElroy vacillates between being a pathological liar and a straight-up racist.
McElroy first gave St. Louis Police a statement on September 11. By then, there were media reports of the shooting circulating as well as in-depths breakdowns of the scene online, making it possible for her to craft a story that would fit in with Wilson's narrative.
Throughout the months of August and September, McElroy made her opinions known about the case on Facebook. Arguably, the worst came on September 13, when she posted a photo of Brown lying dead in the street with the text: "Michael Brown already received justice. So please, stop asking for it." Other posts make liberal use of the N-word and included phrases such as "ape-fest."
Despite all of this, McElroy was apparently still deemed a credible witness by prosecutors. When she finally spoke on October 23, she first said that she was in Ferguson to visit an old friend from high school she hadn't seen since 1988. Then, she claimed, she got lost and asked a man for directions while smoking a cigarette. That's when the confrontation happened—McElroy said Brown charged Officer Wilson "like a football player" and that he "looked like he was on something."
Here, at least, the prosecutor was skeptical. "There are a few things that concern us," he said at the time of McElroy's testimony. Had she been reading about the case online?
"Reading is not the easiest thing," the witness confessed on page 160 of her testimony. "And then when I start to read the words get jumbled and I get bored." Despite her claims of near illiteracy, the witness clearly had gathered enough information to form an opinion. She was part of a small group that raised money for Ferguson cops and made them cards, she testified.
"What you told us sounds a lot like what we have read in the newspaper," the prosecutor pressed. He asked if it was possible that she was trying to fill in her memory gaps with what others were saying online. McElroy admitted that it was.
Suddenly, she remembered that she'd actually written a diary that could help her testify and get the details down right. (McElroy had apparently never mentioned this fact before.) So on November 3, she came back with the diary. That's when she claimed that she was in the area because she was trying to learn about black people.
According to her testimony, she would "go in and have coffee and I will strike up a conversation with an African-American and I will try to talk to them because I'm trying to understand more." She then reiterated that Michael Brown had been the aggressor, mirroring Wilson's account of the incident.
Of course, the jury's deliberations are secret, so it's impossible to know how exactly Witness 40 affected the outcome. But the fact that prosecutors allowed someone to appear before a grand jury who identified herself as mentally incompetent and had shown clear signs of both bias and racism is disturbing.
McElroy's last "diary" entry for August 9 came at 9 PM. "Talked to [my husband] without telling him everything," she wrote. "He told me I was nuts taking drive up there and 2nd keep my mouth shut. He's prob right. No one would believe me anyway."
During questioning, McElroy said she was scared and felt like she was being judged. She said she decided to speak up after praying and remembering the lessons her father taught her. "You can screw up in life—we're human—but you are to respect the law," she reasoned. "You respect your elders, you were always to speak the truth and if you know something, you are to come forward."
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