An unarmed black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has sparked a week of protests in suburban St. Louis suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned, a pathologist hired by his family said.
But the pathologist said the independent team that examined Michael Brown can’t be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted, citing the need for more information.
The autopsy determined that he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the pathologists and the family’s attorneys. Another autopsy conducted by St. Louis County also found Brown was shot six to eight times, and that he was hit in the head and chest.
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 a 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.
After nightfall, police and protesters were again in a tense standoff Monday as crowds filled the streets. Officers used bullhorns to order people out of the street and deployed noisemakers and armoured vehicles to push demonstrators back. There were no immediate reports of violence.
In Washington, President Obama said in a news conference that Attorney General Eric Holder would arrive Wednesday in Ferguson to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown’s death.
The Aug. 9 shooting touched off rancorous protests in the St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson to restore order Monday, while lifting a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew that had been in place for two days.
Obama said he told Nixon he wanted to ensure the use of National Guard reservists to help calm tensions must be limited in scope, and said he would be monitoring that operation in the coming days to see whether the guard’s involvement was helping or hurting.
Guard units kept their distance from the protests and protected a police staging area.
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 independent 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.
Suzanne McCune, the administrator of the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office, said the county’s autopsy found Brown was hit in the head and chest but she would not confirm whether he was hit elsewhere on his body. Full findings of the county’s autopsy aren’t expected for about two weeks.
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.
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.
A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown’s death.
The U.S. 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.
Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy.