08/19/2014 (3:00 am)
FERGUSON, MO.—An unarmed black teenager fatally shot by police suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may have occurred when he put his hands up or when his back was turned to the shooter, “but we don’t know,” a pathologist hired by the teen’s family said Monday.
An independent autopsy conducted on 18-year-old Michael Brown determined that the teen was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the pathologists and the family’s attorneys. Brown was shot by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, touching off a week of rancorous protests in the St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas.
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Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department. Civil rights activists have compared the shooting to other racially charged cases, especially the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot by Florida neighbourhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder. Both cases have fueled nationwide debates on the treatment of young black men in America.
Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the white officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.
Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden during the autopsy, said a graze wound on Brown’s right arm could have occurred in several ways. The teen may have had his back to the shooter, or he could have been facing the shooter with his hands above his head or in a defensive position in front of his face.
“But we don’t know,” Parcells said.
Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered the fatal injury. The pathologists said Brown, who also was shot four times in the right arm, could have survived the other bullet wounds.
Baden said there was no gun-power residue on Brown’s body, indicating he was not shot at close range. However, Baden said he did not have access to Brown’s clothing, and that it was possible the residue could be on the clothing payday lenders.
A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown’s death.
Family attorney Benjamin Crump said the family wanted the additional autopsy because they feared results of the county’s examination could be biased. Crump declined to release copies of the report to the media, and the county’s autopsy report has not been released.
“They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child,” he said during Monday’s news conference with Parcells and Baden. “It verifies that the witness accounts were true: that he was shot multiple times.”
He said Brown’s mother “had the question any mother would have: Was my child in pain. Dr. Baden shared with her in his opinion, he did not suffer.” He also noted that Brown had abrasions on his face from where he fell to the ground, but “otherwise no evidence of a struggle.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy.
The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the neighbourhood where Brown was shot.
Nixon called in the National Guard — a reserve military force that can be called upon by state governors in emergencies — after clashes erupted Sunday night between protesters and police, well ahead of a curfew imposed by the governor.
Police said the fired tear gas to disperse protesters in response to gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson, said at least two people were wounded in shootings by civilians.
“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes,” Nixon said in a statement.
Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.
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