Autopsy Analysis: Michael Brown Was Shot In Hand While Reaching For Gun

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A gunshot wound to Michael Brown’s hand is consistent with someone reaching for a gun, a medical examiner who reviewed Brown’s official autopsy tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Brown was shot at least six times by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The Post-Dispatch published the St. Louis County autopsy, which showed that Brown — who weighed 289 pounds and stood 6’5″ — was struck by six bullets: two to the head, two to the upper chest, and one each in the forearm and right thumb.

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, reviewed the autopsy results on behalf of the Post-Dispatch and determined that Brown’s thumb wound “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.”

“If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun,” added Melinek. Brown’s blood was found on Wilson’s gun.

Wilson reportedly told investigators that he fired two shots in the car after he was attacked by Brown after a verbal altercation in the middle of a Ferguson street. Wilson claimed that Brown shoved him back into his police cruiser and began punching and scratching him. Brown also tried to take Wilson’s weapon, Wilson told investigators, according to the Post-Dispatch. Wilson said he believed that Brown, who he described as “incredibly strong,” had his hand on the hammer of the gun preventing it from firing.

After the two shots in the car, Brown fled while Wilson gave chase. After firing several shots, Wilson reportedly claimed that Brown turned and began running toward him. At that point Wilson fired the fatal shots.

Evidence left outside of Wilson’s cruiser “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car,” St. Louis County medical examiner Michael Graham told the paper.

No stippling was present on Brown’s thumb wound, the autopsy showed. While stippling is often indicative of a close-range gun shot, Graham said that sometimes from “really close” range — less than an inch — stippling is not present.

Graham also said that tissue from Brown found near the car was evidence that a significant struggle had ensued.

“Someone got an injury that tore off skin and left it on the car,” Graham told the Post-Dispatch. “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.”

Some witnesses to Brown’s shooting have said that the 18-year-old was holding his hands up in surrender when Wilson began firing the final fatal shots.

But Melinek says that the autopsy does not support the claim.

She said that a shot that hit Brown in the back of the forearm indicates that his palms were not facing toward Wilson in a surrender position. The shot that fatally wounded Brown hit him in the top of the head as he was falling forward or lunging, Melinek determined.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Wilson reportedly told investigators that Brown did not have his hands up while he was shooting. He reportedly told investigators that Brown’s left arm was pointing outward with his fingers pointing downward while his right hand was grabbing his shirt.

Last week The New York Times reported that federal investigators likely did not have enough evidence to support civil rights charges against Wilson. The investigators also said that evidence supports Wilson’s claims about the altercation in the police car. Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown’s who was with him before and during the shooting, has claimed that Wilson began choking Brown and dragged him into the car before the struggle.

Brown family attorney Anthony Gray dismissed Wilson’s claims, telling the Post-Dispatch, “This story just doesn’t even make good nonsense.”

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