Michael Brown autopsy indicates close-range shooting

The findings complicate accounts in which Brown was running away from Darren Wilson

By Joanna Rothkopf
Published October 22, 2014 1:32PM (EDT)
Michael Brown's family (AP/Brown Family)
Michael Brown's family (AP/Brown Family)

The official autopsy for Michael Brown indicates that Brown was actually closer to Officer Darren Wilson than initial accounts suggested.

Protests have rocked the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, with the public clamoring for justice for the unarmed teenager who was shot to death in broad daylight by Wilson. The new findings may complicate accounts that Brown was running away.

According to the new report prepared by the St. Louis County medical examiner, Brown had a close-range wound in the hand, which is consistent with an altercation in the patrol car.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Christine Byers reports:

[The St. Louis medical examiner, Dr. Michael Graham, who is not a part of the official investigation] said the examination indicated a shot traveled from the tip of Brown's right thumb toward his wrist. The official report notes an absence of stippling, powder burns around a wound that indicate a shot fired at relatively short range.

But Graham said, “Sometimes when it’s really close, such as within an inch or so, there is no stipple, just smoke.”

The report on a supplemental microscopic exam of tissue from the thumb wound showed foreign matter “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm.”

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said the autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.” She added, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”

Sources told the Post-Dispatch that Brown’s blood had been found on Wilson’s gun.

Melinek also said the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.

Melinek said that Brown was facing Wilson when he was shot in the upper right arm, twice in the chest and in the forehead. The angle of the final shot was such that Brown had to have been falling forward or lunging toward the shooter. Additionally, the trajectory of the shot that hit Brown on the inner arm is such that Brown likely did not have his hands all the way up in surrender, as some reports indicate.

The autopsy also confirmed that there was tissue on the outside of the patrol car on the driver's side. "Someone got an injury that tore off skin and left it on the car," said Graham. "That fits with everything else that came out. There's blood in the car, now skin on the car, that shows something happened right there."

According to CNN, Brown's blood was also found on Wilson's uniform and inside the car. That evidence, combined with the close-range shooting, "tends to support any testimony that there was some kind of scuffle in the police car. And if so, that tends to support Officer Wilson's testimony and his justification for using deadly force," said CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos. "Ultimately, that officer will have to come up with justification not for firing his gun the first time, but for each and every bullet that came out of his firearm -- whether at the car or away from the car."

A toxicology test also found that there was tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active drug in marijuana in Brown's blood and urine.

Meanwhile, in an ongoing investigation of the shooting, Wilson has testified that during a scuffle in the patrol car for Wilson's weapon, Brown pressed the barrel of the gun against Wilson's hip. As soon as the officer was able to get control, he fired twice, hitting Brown once in the hand and causing him to run away. According to Wilson, Brown then stopped, turned around and began to charge at him. At that point, Wilson shot him several more times.

Anthony Gray, the Brown family's attorney, has called the story "absurd from beginning to end" and a "concocted version of events that nobody supports."

The entire autopsy is available here.

Joanna Rothkopf

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Autopsy Darren Wilson Ferguson Michael Brown