The official autopsy for the Ferguson, Mo. teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer was released Tuesday, revealing the unarmed teen was shot in the hand at close range.
The findings, according to St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham, support “that there was a significant altercation at the car.” Graham was not part of the official investigation. Sources close with Wilson’s statements have said Brown struggled for the officer’s firearm inside the police SUV. Wilson maintains he fired the gun twice, hitting Brown in the hand.
The autopsy also reveals the 18-year-old sustained six gunshot entrance wounds. A private autopsy conducted by Brown’s family showed the teen had been shot six times as well, including twice in the head.
Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, 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 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.
Experts seem to believe these new findings will support Wilson’s account.
Graham 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.”
Melinek 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.”
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.
But other details leaked last week about the investigation, including the reveal that Brown’s blood was on Wilson’s uniform and inside the police SUV, may not work in the officer’s favor.
[CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos] said the details about Brown’s blood on the officer’s gun and on his uniform might only go so far in helping the officer’s case.
“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,” he said.
Earlier this week, former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said that information surrounding the investigation will continue to leak as a way to “let people down slowly” — a suggestion that Wilson may not be indicted next month.
Fitch believes more information will be leaked out to the media by a government source. Fitch says this strategy has been used before, “Assuming that the article is correct my belief is that there will be future articles written as probably from the same federal source that will let out a little information each time as it gets closer to the actual announcement of the verdict or charges or no charges.”
Fitch believes the leaked information is an attempt to let some people down slowly, “It was an intentional release with someone familiar with the federal side of the investigation, in my opinion, for the sole purpose of preparing the community for what may be seen for many as bad news, that there’s not going to be any federal charges.”
A St. Louis grand jury will determine if Wilson will face charges. Federal investigators are still looking into whether any civil rights violations occurred. We’ll keep you updated with the latest.