Michael Brown autopsy results may support Ferguson cop’s claim

Michael Brown autopsy results may support Ferguson cop’s claim
​A newly leaked autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old black man shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri more than two months ago, indicates a gunshot wound to the hand from close range, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

One of three conducted on Brown, the autopsy by St. Louis County medical examiner’s office found particles "consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm” upon a microscopic examination of hand tissue. Yet, the examination found no “powder stipple,” or residue usually left by guns fired at such a close range.

The findings of the autopsy, originally released to county prosecutors and not the public, suggested to outside forensic experts - all not related to the case and interviewed by the Post-Dispatch for their analysis - that Brown’s hand was close to the weapon of the Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, at the time of the shot.

“Sometimes when it’s really close, such as within an inch or so, there is no stipple, just smoke,” Michael Graham, a St. Louis medical examiner, told the Post-Dispatch.

The autopsy obtained by the newspaper also said that tissue from Brown’s thumb wound exhibited matter “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm,” Graham said.

An independent autopsy ordered by Brown’s family failed to report such residue, possibly because those examiners did not have access to Brown’s clothing worn at the time of the incident.

The US Department of Justice conducted the third autopsy on Brown. Results of that report have yet to be released.

The county’s autopsy also matched Wilson’s claim that he and Brown engaged in a struggle near or inside the car. The report “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car,” Graham told the Post-Dispatch.

Another outside expert who reviewed the report told the newspaper that the autopsy results did not support claims made by several witnesses that Brown had his hands raised in surrender or that he was attempting to flee as Wilson fired on him.

“If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun,” said Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in California.

“[Melinek] said Brown was facing Wilson when Brown took a shot to the forehead, two shots to the chest and a shot to the upper right arm,” the Post-Dispatch wrote.

“The wound to the top of Brown’s head would indicate he was falling forward or in a lunging position toward the shooter; the shot was instantly fatal. A sixth shot that hit the forearm traveled from the back of the arm to the inner arm, which means Brown’s palms could not have been facing Wilson, as some witnesses have said, Melinek said. That trajectory shows Brown probably was not taking a standard surrender position with arms above the shoulders and palms out when he was hit, she said.”

The St. Louis County Office of the Medical Examiner did not respond early Wednesday to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

The autopsy report also found THC, the prime psychoactive agent in marijuana, at the time of his “homicide,” as the report calls his death. Brown “may or may not have been impaired,” one expert told the Post-Dispatch.

Brown’s killing - and the manner in which his body was left in a Ferguson street for four hours on Aug. 9 - ignited fierce protests and long-held grievances in the predominantly black suburb of St. Louis. Ferguson’s police force and official leadership is dominated by whites. Local and state police reacted to ongoing protests with an aggressive, militarized response, using tear gas and a host of other combat gear and weaponry in attempts to suppress uprisings.

A grand jury is currently considering an indictment of Wilson, who has spoken to the grand jury but has been absent from the public gaze since the shooting.

Some protesters and others have alleged that the office of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCullough has been the source of various strategic leaks surrounding the case, and that McCullough should be replaced by a special prosecutor given his history and relationship with area police.

Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch also reported early Wednesday the most detailed account of Wilson’s statements to police following the shooting.

An unnamed source said that Wilson told investigators that when he approached Brown - after Wilson surmised that Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson fit the description of a robbery suspect - the 18-year old slammed Wilson’s car door on the officer, punching him in the face. This led to the struggle between the two, he said, with Wilson drawing his gun and shooting Brown. The autopsy confirmed Brown’s blood was on the vehicle.

Brown was shot six times, according to reports.

On Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced a special commission will examine social and economic conditions in Ferguson.