FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Skepticism Remains as Leaked Mike Brown Autopsy Supports Police Account of Shooting

An official autopsy report leaked to the media seems to support Darren Wilson's account that Brown reached for his gun, but protesters are still deeply skeptical of the official police version of events.
October 22, 2014, 7:25pm
Photo via VICE News

The report for one of three autopsies carried out on the body of Mike Brown was leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, showing the teen was shot at close range and possibly supporting accounts of a close confrontation in Darren Wilson's car.

The official report, which was conducted by the St. Louis County medical examiner the morning after Brown's death, was followed by another autopsy by Michael Baden, a private, nationally recognized forensic pathologist contacted by Brown's family. The findings of Baden's report were released to the public in August. Results of another autopsy, by federal investigators, have not been disclosed.

Advertisement

An analysis conducted by the Post-Dispatch on the official report, in consultation with forensic experts with no ties to the investigation, indicates that the official autopsy partially differs from Baden's, which had found no evidence of a struggle.

Both reports show that Brown was shot six times, including a fatal shot to the forehead. The trajectory of that bullet indicates Brown was either falling or lunging forward, the newspaper said.

Ferguson protesters march on as the movement's generational divide grows deeper. Read more here.

The leaked autopsy also shows that Brown was shot in the hand at close range, with the bullet traveling from his thumb to his wrist. Tissue analysis showed traces of matter "consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm," the report found.

'All autopsies of the deceased should have been open to public view for two months now, not shrouded in mystery.'

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist consulted by the paper, said that the material would support the assertion "that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound… If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he's going for the officer's gun."

Baden — who reviewed the autopsies of both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr — could not immediately be reached for comment on the discrepancies between his autopsy results and the official St. Louis County version. In August, Baden said "there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting," and stressed that his examination was not intended to determine whether the shooting was justified.

It is still unclear why Wilson kept shooting after Brown emerged from the car — or why it was necessary for him to fire so many times.

Police have long defended Wilson's version of the altercation, saying that Brown had reached for the officer's gun. Several eyewitnesses have said Brown appeared to be fleeing, but the Washington Post published a report Wednesday contradicting those accounts.

Advertisement

"More than a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses have provided testimony to a St. Louis County grand jury that largely supports Wilson's account of events of Aug. 9," the Post reported, citing interviews with "several people familiar with the investigation."

Wilson, who has been on paid leave since the incident, also testified for four hours before a grand jury tasked with determining whether there is sufficient cause to charge him with a crime and send him to trial. Delays and mishaps in that process have further fueled ongoing protests in Ferguson, where many residents believe that law enforcement are "protecting their own," and that an indictment is unlikely.

Critics of the process have noted that details about the investigation have seemingly been released selectively and with "suspect" timing — in direct contrast with public records on the incident that should have been made public early on but never were.

Here's a first look at the Ferguson Police Department's internal code of conduct. Read more here.

As VICE News previously reported, a use-of-force report that Wilson's supervisor was required to write was never filed at all.

After much pressure from media and civil rights groups, the police released a scant, heavily redacted two-page police report of the incident 12 days after the shooting, leaving out Brown's name and any description of the incident.

Other official documentation of the case has been kept out of public sight, hidden behind bureaucracy and exorbitant fees that have seemingly been put in place with the sole purpose of keeping the details of the incident on Canfield Drive a secret.

Advertisement

"Officer Wilson should have told his side of that story immediately in a detailed police report that should have been made public when the ACLU and other groups requested it through open-records laws," Chris King, managing editor of the St. Louis American, a weekly publication serving the city's black community, told VICE News. "Wilson's version of the shooting, as documented in the police report he was bound by duty to produce, and all autopsies of the deceased should have been open to public view for two months now, not shrouded in mystery."

In a column for the St. Louis American, former prosecutor and grand jury attorney Jerryl Christmas called St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch's choice to hand the decision over to the jury a "delay tactic."

"Bob McCulloch wants the media to believe that the way he's presenting the Ferguson shooting case to the grand jury is normal procedure," he wrote. "In reality, he's prolonging a charade when it's obvious that he simply doesn't want to charge Darren Wilson."

Wilson himself told investigators that he was "pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life," the New York Times reported last week, citing unnamed federal officials. He said that Brown reached for his gun, which was fired twice in the car.

King alleged that the leaked autopsy findings and the details of Wilson's testimony are a deliberate attempt to get the official police version of the facts — and only that — to the public.

Advertisement

"First the New York Times and then the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published versions of Officer Wilson's testimony that would not have been admissible in court, given that each report was third-party anonymous hearsay," King said. " We need to hear from Wilson, not a reporter who listened to somebody who listened to somebody who listened to Wilson."

Others have criticized the decision to task a jury with the decision to indict or not indict the officer as unusual, and a way to delay justice.

While seemingly confirming some of Wilson's claims, the leaked autopsy report is unlikely to appease protesters, many of whom stopped believing official accounts of the incident long ago.

And that actually isn't an autopsy. That is the police version of events mixed with some medical observations from the scene. — deray mckesson (@deray)October 22, 2014

I'm not going to play marijuana, autopsy report, victim-on-trial-for-his murder games. I'm done with the US injustice system. It's invalid.

— Ferrari Sheppard (@stopbeingfamous)October 22, 2014

Darren Wilson said he was punched & scratched repeatedly by Mike Brown. Not only do photos/videos not display this, autopsy doesn't either.

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing)October 22, 2014

Some have also noted that the leaking of the report and Wilson's testimony further highlights serious problems with the way the investigation has been conducted so far.

"A non-transparent grand jury process and a leaky investigation is not the way the outcome of this important case should be determined," Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman and a regular presence at the protests, tweeted today.

Advertisement

Ferguson and the violence of sanitizing the struggle for civil rights. Read more here.

Earlier this month a woman claiming to be a friend of one of the jurors revealed details of the hearings on Twitter, including statements that the juror did not find there was enough evidence to warrant an indictment.

That Twitter account was quickly deleted — but not before several screengrabs were taken — and the alleged leak prompted the prosecutor's office to investigate possible misconduct. Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be confidential.

A toxicology report accompanying the leaked autopsy also showed the teen had traces of marijuana in his system — a fact which was previously known, and has already sparked some debate, with some noting that marijuana is commonly found to induce calmer behavior, not aggressiveness.

A toxicologist consulted by the Post-Dispatch said that there is no way to tell whether Brown's judgment may have been affected by the substance.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi