On Sunday night, while tear gas filled the streets of Ferguson, a few hours before the second night of a state-imposed curfew, results of the first autopsy of Michael Brown became public, in a report from the New York Times.
The autopsy revealed that Brown, an unarmed African American teen, was shot at least six times by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Two of those shots were to the head, and four were to the right arm, the New York Times reported.
This preliminary private autopsy is the first of three. One will be performed by local authorities, and another was ordered today by Attorney General Eric Holder at the request of Brown's family. The New York Times describes the findings of the autopsy. Warning, the descriptions are quite graphic:
"One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunpowder was present on his body. However, that determination could change if it turns out that there is gunshot residue on Mr. Brown’s clothing, to which Dr. Baden did not have access."
This is the first time that any substantial information has been released regarding the actual shooting. It has been over a week since the teenager was shot.
On Friday, the Ferguson Police Department released the name of the officer involved, Darren Wilson. The six-year veteran has been on paid leave. During that time, the Ferguson Police Department also released video of what is allegedly Michael Brown stealing cigars from a local convenient store. Police Chief Jackson later admitted that Officer Wilson did not know that Brown may be been involved in a robbery. The release of the video has been condemned by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
The shooting of Michael Brown sparked a variety of responses: ranging from peaceful protests, heavy militarized police, looting, tear gas, rubber bullets to church gatherings and meaningful conversations. In short they have brought to light racial tensions between a community -- and a nation -- and the police force.
Following the shooting, the community searched for answers and had yet to receive them. There are discrepancies between eye witness accounts and the police description of the shooting. And prior to this autopsy it was unknown how many times Brown had been shot.
“People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1,” Dr. Baden, 80, told the Times. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”
Dr. Baden was a forensic examiner for the New York State Police, retiring in 2011. He is "a well-known New York-based medical examiner, who is one of only about 400 board-certified forensic pathologists in the nation," according to the Times. Dr. Baden reviewed the autopsies of both President John F. Kennedy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and has performed over 20,000 autopsies. He has waived his $10,000 fee for the family of Michael Brown.
What the autopsy cannot do is exact blame, or present justification.
“In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times,’ ” Dr. Baden told the Times. “Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting.”
The Ferguson Police Department had yet to see the autopsy, the Times reported, and had no comment.
Meanwhile, an hour before curfew there have reports of tear gas, and a heavy police presence on the streets of Ferguson. Watch here.