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'Don't know' if Missouri teen shot with hands up

Monday, August 18, 2014
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People protest Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo.
People protest Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo.

FERGUSON, Mo. — An unarmed teenager whose fatal shooting by police has sparked rancorous 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, but "we don't know," a pathologist hired by the teen's family said Monday.

An independent autopsy determined that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, the family's lawyers and hired pathologists said. Witnesses said Brown's hands were above his head when he was repeatedly shot Aug. 9 in Ferguson, where the governor called in the National Guard early Monday after police again used tear gas to quell protesters.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden during the private autopsy, said a bullet grazed Brown's right arm. He said 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.

"We don't know," Parcells said. "We still have to look at the other (elements) of this investigation before we start piecing things together."

Brown's fatal shooting by a Ferguson police officer has heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white police department. Another protest quickly deteriorated Sunday night as marchers pushed toward one end of a street, and authorities — who said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails — pushed them back with tear gas.

Photo by The Associated Press

A protester stands in the street after police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo.

The streets were empty before a state-imposed midnight curfew, but hours later, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson. It was unclear when the troops may arrive, but Nixon said they would be under the direction of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which the governor has put in charge of overseeing the protests.

"These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes," Nixon said in a statement.

Nixon lifted the neighborhood's midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew later Monday, two days after he declared a state of emergency. But police were asking protesters to keep moving Monday afternoon, saying they couldn't stay in one spot per an order from the Highway Patrol. Officers were seen urging people to avoid standing in one place, but they said it wasn't meant to disperse protesters.

A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown's death, but it's unclear how long it may take, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County's prosecuting attorney.

Family attorney Benjamin Crump said Brown's parents wanted the additional autopsy because they feared results of the county's examination could be biased. Crump declined to release copies of the report, and the county's autopsy report has not been released.

"They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child," he said during Monday's news conference with Parcells and Baden, who has testified in several high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

The second autopsy, Crump said, "verifies that the witness accounts were true: that he was shot multiple times."

Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered that fatal injury. The pathologists said Brown, who also was shot four times in the right arm, could have survived the other bullet wounds.

Baden also 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.

Crump also noted that Brown had abrasions on his face from where he fell to the ground, but there was "otherwise no evidence of a struggle."

 
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