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Shooting of Michael Brown
St. Louis County Missouri Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Ferguson Highlighted.svg
Location of Ferguson, Missouri, within St. Louis County, and St. Louis County within Missouri
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Time 12:01 p.m. – 12:03 p.m.
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Date Saturday, August 9, 2014
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Location Ferguson, Missouri, U.S.
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Coordinates

38.73847°N 90.27387°W

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Coordinates: 38.73847°N 90.27387°W

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[1]
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Participants
  • Darren Wilson (police officer)
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  • Michael Brown (deceased)
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  • Dorian Johnson (accompanied Brown)
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Deaths Michael Brown
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The shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer. The disputed circumstances of the shooting and the resultant protests and civil unrest received considerable attention in the U.S. and abroad, and have sparked debate about law enforcement's relationship with African Americans and police use of force doctrine.

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Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of a street when Wilson drove up and told them to move to the sidewalk. An altercation ensued with Brown and Wilson struggling through the window of the police vehicle until Wilson's gun was fired. Brown and Johnson then fled in different directions, with Wilson in pursuit of Brown, firing several more times. In the entire altercation, Wilson fired a total of twelve rounds;[2] Brown was hit by seven or eight[3] (all from the front) and the last was probably the fatal shot.[4][5][6] Witness reports differ as to whether and when Brown had his hands raised, and whether he was moving toward Wilson when the final shots were fired.

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The shooting sparked unrest in Ferguson, in part due to the belief among many that Brown was surrendering, as well as longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black Ferguson community and the majority-white city government and police.[7] Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests received significant criticism from the media and politicians. There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics and a militarized response. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered local police organizations to cede much of their authority to theMissouri State Highway Patrol. Mainly peaceful protests continued for several weeks.

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A few days after the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department released a video of events at a nearby convenience store that occurred only minutes before the shooting. It shows Brown taking cigarillos and shoving a store employee who tried to prevent him from leaving. The timing of the video release received criticism from some media, the Brown family, and some public officials, who viewed the release as an attempt to impeach Brown. Others said the video was informative as to Brown's state of mind, with the shooting incident coming so shortly after the robbery.

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The events surrounding the shooting were investigated by a county grand jury. In a press conference on November 24, Robert P. McCulloch, the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri, announced that the jury had decided not to indict Darren Wilson for his actions.[8] Some legal analysts raised concerns over McCulloch's unorthodox approach, asserting that this process could have influenced the grand jury to decide not to indict.[9][10] One commentator said that it was "not unusual in a police-involved shooting case for a prosecutor to lay out all the evidence and not ask a grand jury for a specific criminal charge",[9] while others highlighted significant differences between a typical grand jury proceeding in Missouri and Wilson's case.[11]

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In September, Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General launched a federal investigation of the Missouri city's police force to examine whether officers routinely engaged in racial profiling or showed a pattern of excessive force.[12] On December 1, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the federal government will spend US$75 million on body cameras for law enforcement officers, as one of the measures taken in response to the shooting.[13][14]

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Backgrounds

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Michael Brown Jr.

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Michael Brown Jr. (May 20, 1996[15] – August 9, 2014) was the son of Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr.[16] Brown graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis eight days before his death, completing analternative education program.[17] His teachers said he was "a student who loomed large and didn't cause trouble", referring to him as a "gentle giant".[18][19] At the time of his death, he was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and weighed 292 lb (132 kg).[6]

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Darren Wilson

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Darren Dean Wilson[20] (born May 14, 1986) was born in Fort Worth, Texas.[21][22] He was 28 years old at the time of the shooting.[23][24] Wilson is 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and weighs about 210 lb (95 kg).[25]

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Wilson first worked as a police officer in the police department of Jennings, Missouri.[26] Wilson had no disciplinary history with the department. After the Jennings Police Department was disbanded due to corruption,[27][28]Wilson became a police officer in Ferguson.[29] He was described by a Jennings coworker as an "average officer" who "didn't get into any trouble".[20] Former Jennings Police Chief Robert Orr said that he hardly remembered Wilson and said "that must mean he never got in any trouble, because that's when they usually came to me".[26][29]

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Shooting

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At 11:51 a.m. on August 9, 2014, a convenience store security camera captured video of Brown taking a $48 box of cigarillos and physically assaulting and intimidating a convenience store clerk.[30][31] A police dispatcher reported a "stealing in progress" at 11:53, and at 11:57 dispatch said the suspect was wearing a red Cardinals hat, a white T-shirt, yellow socks, and khaki shorts, and was accompanied by another man. At noon, Wilson radioed to ask other officers searching for the suspects if they needed him and was told by dispatch that they had disappeared.[32]

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At 12:01 p.m., Wilson drove up to Brown and Johnson in the middle of Canfield Drive and ordered them to move off the street and onto the sidewalk. Wilson continued driving past the two men, but then backed up and stopped close to them,[6][33][34][35][36] after realizing that Brown matched the description of the robbery suspect, according to Wilson.[37] Dispatch recordings indicate that Wilson called for backup at 12:02, saying "[Unit] 21. Put me on Canfield with two. And send me another car."[32]

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A struggle took place between Brown and Wilson through the window of the police SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe.[38] Wilson's gun was fired twice during the struggle, with one bullet hitting Brown's arm while it was inside the vehicle.[38] In his testimony to the grand jury, Wilson said that he "felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan" while he attempted to restrain Brown when he reached through his police car window.[25]

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Brown and Johnson fled and Johnson hid behind a car.[39] Wilson got out of the vehicle and pursued Brown. Blood on the ground supports statements that Brown continued to move closer toward Wilson after being hit by a number of bullets.[11] At some point, Wilson fired his gun again, with at least six shots striking Brown in the front,[6] fatally wounding him. Brown was unarmed.[38][40]

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Less than 90 seconds passed from the time Wilson encountered Brown to the time of Brown's death.[41][42]

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Accounts

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Multiple witnesses saw part or all of the event and have given interviews to the media and testified to the grand jury. The witness accounts have been widely described as conflicting on various points.[43][44][45][46][47][48][49] David A. Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, said that eyewitness testimony often differs from witness to witness, a phenomenon commonly known as the Rashomon effect.[50]

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An Associated Press review of the grand jury found that there were numerous problems in the witness testimony, including statements that were "inconsistent, fabricated, or provably wrong". Several of the witnesses admitted changing their testimony to fit released evidence, or other witness statements.[51]

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Police

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On August 10, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar stated that "the genesis of this shooting incident was a physical confrontation" during which Brown "physically assaulted the police officer".[52] According to Belmar, Wilson attempted to exit his vehicle but was pushed back into it by Brown, who then assaulted him inside. Brown then allegedly attempted to seize Wilson's gun, which was fired at least once during the struggle. Belmar acknowledged that "more than a couple" of shots struck Brown in the course of the encounter.[52][53][54]

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In August, Ferguson's chief of police Tom Jackson stated that Wilson had been injured in the incident.[55] Anonymous sources falsely claimed that Wilson had been beaten nearly unconscious and had suffered a fractured eye socket.[56][57] CNN reported that an anonymous source claimed that x-rays had been taken after the incident and they came back negative for a fractured eye socket.[58][59][60] In October, The New York Times reported that an unnamed source claimed that Wilson told investigators that Brown had punched and scratched him, which left swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.[38] In November, surveillance video was released of Wilson in the Ferguson police station a few hours after the shooting.[32] Brown family attorneys said the video shows that initial reports of Wilson's injuries were exaggerated.[61] Pictures of Wilson's injuries were released after the reading of the grand jury results.[62]

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Bruising on Darren Wilson's face after the shooting
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Initially, the Ferguson City Police Department declined to release Wilson's identity[63] and stated that he had been placed on administrative leave.[55] On August 15, Chief Jackson announced that the name of the officer involved in the shooting was Darren Wilson, who was a five-year police veteran with no disciplinary actions against him.[64] According to Jackson, Wilson initially stopped Brown for walking in the street and blocking traffic, but "at some point" during the encounter Wilson saw cigarillos in Brown's hands and thought he might be a suspect in the robbery[65] that had occurred at a nearby convenience store a few minutes before the shooting.[66] The owners of the convenience store told KTVI that no one working at the store reported a robbery, but that the 911 call came from a customer inside the store.[67]

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On August 19, The New York Times reported that, according to law enforcement officials, "As Officer Wilson got out of his car, the men were running away. The officer fired his weapon but did not hit anyone." Also, Wilson said that when Brown later moved towards him with lowered arms, he decided to use deadly force because he feared Brown was going to attack him.[43]

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MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell reported on August 21 that Wilson did not complete an incident report about the shooting, after being advised by a union lawyer not to do so.[68] According to O'Donnell, Wilson did file a report, but not until ten days after the shooting, and the report contained no information other than his name and the date.[68] According to the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office, the Ferguson Police Department has never generated an incident report on the shooting.[69][70]

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On August 20 and August 21, the St. Louis County Police and the Ferguson Police released their respective incident reports,[70][71] which gave the time when each police force arrived on the scene and classified the incident as a homicide. Neither report contains a narrative description of what occurred.

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Saki Knafo of The Huffington Post commented that the Ferguson incident report was "almost entirely blank", with the address and time of day of the shooting, and other "bare-bones details". In Knafo's opinion, police reports generally include details about the crime scene, interviews with witnesses, and the names of all the officers involved. Vanita Gupta, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said "[it] just further demonstrates the lack of transparency and lack of information that is being provided by the Ferguson police department about the Michael Brown shooting." A spokesperson for the county police said that the information they provided contains details they are required to share by law, but that other information was "protected until the investigation is complete". The report states that police learned of the killing at 12:43 p.m., 40 minutes after the incident, and that officers did not arrive at the scene until 1:30 p.m. The spokesperson said that the response was slow because officers were investigating another crime at the time.[72]

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Yahoo News reported that the use-of-force report for the shooting, which is required by Ferguson Police Department protocol after any lethal or non-lethal force is used, does not exist, and that its absence goes against recommended standards of state and national police credentialing groups.[73]

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Darren Wilson's interview and testimony

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Wilson gave his account of the incident in an interview with a detective on August 10, and in testimony before the grand jury in September. Wilson said that he had just left a call involving a sick person when he heard on his radio that there was a theft in progress at a local convenience store.[74] Wilson heard the description of the suspects and soon after observed two black males walking down the middle of the street. Wilson pulled up to them and told the two to walk on the sidewalk, and Johnson replied, "we're almost to our destination". As they passed his window, Brown said "fuck what you have to say".[74] Wilson then backed up about ten feet to where they were and attempted to open his door. After backing up, Wilson told the two to "come here", and Brown told him in reply, "what the fuck are you gonna do". Wilson shut the door and Brown approached him and he opened the door again "trying to push him back", while telling him to get back. Brown "started swinging and punching at me from outside the vehicle", and Brown had his body against the door.[74] Wilson stated that the first strike from Brown was a "glancing blow", and at that point he was trying to get Brown's arms out of his face. That was when Brown turned to his left and handed Johnson several packs of the stolen cigarillos he had been holding.[74] Wilson then grabbed Brown's right arm trying to get control, but Brown hit him in the face. Wilson stated that it "jarred" him back and he yelled at Brown numerous times to stop and get back. Wilson said he thought about using his mace and his baton, but he was unable to reach either of them. He then drew his weapon and pointed it at Brown and told him to stop or he would shoot him, while ordering him to the ground.[74]

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According to Wilson, Brown then said "you're too much of a fucking pussy to shoot me" and grabbed for his gun and twisted it, pointing it at him, into his hip area.[74] Wilson placed his left hand against Brown's hand and his other hand on the gun and pushed forward with both his arms. The gun was somewhat lined up with Brown, and Wilson pulled the trigger twice, but the weapon failed to discharge.[74] On the next try, the gun fired and Brown then attempted to hit him multiple times inside his vehicle. Wilson shot at Brown again, but missed and he took off running east, while Wilson exited his vehicle and radioed for backup.[74] Wilson followed him, yelling for him to stop and get on the ground, but he kept running. Brown eventually stopped and turned and made a "grunting noise" and started running at him with his right hand under his shirt in his waistband.[74] Brown ignored Wilson's commands to stop and get on the ground, so Wilson fired multiple shots at him, paused and yelled at him to get on the ground again, but Brown was still charging at him and had not slowed down. Wilson then fired another set of shots, but Brown was still running at him. When Brown was about eight to ten feet away, Wilson fired more shots, with one of those hitting Brown in the head, which brought him down with his hand still in his waistband. Wilson said two patrol cars showed up approximately fifteen to twenty seconds after the final shot. When his supervisor arrived, he was sent to the police station.[74]

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Sources reported reviewing Wilson's testimony and highlighted a number of inconsistencies, including Wilson's first interview with a detective, hours after Brown’s death, in which Wilson didn’t claim to have any knowledge that Brown was suspected of the robbery, and that in that first interview Wilson told the detective that Brown had passed "something" off to Johnson before Brown punched him in the face, while in his grand jury testimony, Wilson referred to Brown's hands being full of cigarillos.[75] Other discrepancies reported include Wilson's testimony in which he said that Brown had is "right hand put it under his shirt and into his waistband", and that after he was shot dead, "his right hand was still under his body looked like it was still in his waistband", while the he medical investigator report said that Brown's "right arm was extended away from his side. His left arm was next to his side his lower arm was beneath his abdomen and his hand was near the waistband of his shorts."[76]

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CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin criticized the prosecutors for asking softball questions during the cross examination of Wilson's testimony, and referred particularly to the fact that no witness could corroborate Wilson's story that he had warned Brown twice to lay down on the ground, and when asked, witnesses said that they did not hear him say that.[77]

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Leaked testimony from Darren Wilson

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On October 22, anonymous sources "close to the investigation" leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch what they described as Wilson's grand jury testimony,[78] following other leaks on Wilson's version of the events.[79]

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The Justice Department issued a statement saying that it "considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling. Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case."[78] Wilson's defense team denied they were behind the leaks, stating that they "[were] not in possession of any of the disclosed reports or the investigative report".[78] The St. Louis County prosecutor spokesperson said that his office wouldn't investigate the leaks because they could not force journalists to divulge their sources, and said that "you can tell by the information they have that the leaks are not coming from the grand jury or the prosecutor's office."[80]

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Interview with Darren Wilson

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On November 26, Darren Wilson gave his first interview about the shooting to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.[81]

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Dorian Johnson

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Johnson, a friend of Brown, who was with him that day, gave his account of the incident to media outlets in August and testified before the grand jury in September. In media interviews, Johnson said that Wilson pulled up beside them and said, "Get the fuck on the sidewalk." [82][83][84][85] The young men replied that they were "not but a minute away from [their] destination, and [they] would shortly be out of the street".[85] Wilson drove forward without saying anything further and abruptly backed up, positioning his vehicle crosswise in their path. Wilson tried to open his door aggressively and the door ricocheted off both of their bodies and closed back on Wilson."[39] Wilson, still in his vehicle, grabbed Brown around his neck through the open window, and Brown tried to pull away, but Wilson continued to pull Brown toward him "like tug of war".[47][86] Johnson stated that Brown "did not reach for the officer's weapon at all", and was attempting to get free, when Wilson drew his weapon and said, "I'll shoot you" or "I'm going to shoot", and fired his weapon hitting Brown.[83][87][88][89][90] Following the initial gunshot, Brown freed himself, and the two fled. Wilson exited the vehicle, and fired several rounds at the fleeing Brown, hitting him once in the back.[39][85] Brown turned around with his hands raised and said, "I don't have a gun. Stop shooting!" Wilson then shot Brown several more times, killing him.[39][63]

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In his testimony to the grand jury, Johnson said that he and Brown had walked to a convenience store to buy cigarillos, but Brown instead reached over the counter and took them and shoved a clerk on his way out the door.[91] Johnson testified that on their walk back home, Brown had the cigarillos in his hands in plain sight and that two Ferguson police cars passed them, but did not stop.[91] When Wilson encountered them, he told the two to "get the fuck on the sidewalk" and Johnson told him they would be off the street shortly as they were close to their destination.[92] Johnson testifed that Wilson was the aggressor from the beginning and that for no apparent reason, he backed his vehicle up and tried to open his door, but Brown shut it, preventing him from getting out.[92] Johnson said that Wilson then reached out and grabbed Brown by the neck and the two were engaged in a "tug of war", and Wilson said "I'll shoot". Johnson said he never saw Brown hit Wilson and didn't think Brown grabbed for Wilson's gun, but that a shot was fired.[92][93] At that point, Johnson said they both ran and Wilson fired while Brown was running away, and that Brown turned around and "at that time Big Mike's hands was up, but not so much in the air, because he had been struck".[93] Johnson told the jurors that Brown said "I don't have a gun" and that he was mad and tried to say again "I don't have a gun", but "before he can say the second sentence or before he can even get it out, that's when the several more shots came." In his testimony, Johnson maintained that Brown did not run at Wilson prior to the fatal shots.[93]

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Michael Brady

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Michael T. Brady, who lived near the scene of the shooting, said that he observed an initial altercation on the police vehicle while inside looking through a window. "It was something strange. Something was not right. It was some kind of altercation. I can't say whether he was punching the officer or whatever. But something was going on in that window, and it didn't look right." Brady could see Johnson at the front passenger side of the vehicle when he and Brown started running suddenly; he did not hear a gunshot or see what caused them to run. He saw Wilson get out of the vehicle and "start walking briskly while firing on Brown as he fled".[43]

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Brady then ran outside with his camera phone to record the event. By the time he got outside, Brown had turned around and was facing Wilson. Brown was "balled up" with his arms under his stomach and he was "halfway down" to the ground. As he was falling, Brown took one or two steps toward Wilson because he was presumably hit and was stumbling forward; Wilson then shot him three or four times. Brady said that the pictures he took of Brown with his arms tucked in under his body is the position he was in as he was shot three or four more times by Wilson before hitting the ground.[94]

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Piaget Crenshaw

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Piaget Crenshaw said that, from her vantage point, it appeared that Wilson and Brown were arm wrestling before the former shot Brown from inside his vehicle. Wilson then chased Brown for about 20 feet before shooting him again. "I saw the police chase him ... down the street and shoot him down."[95] When Brown then raised his arms, the officer shot him two more times, killing him.[96]

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According to earlier reports that appeared on August 10, Crenshaw saw Brown attempt to flee with his hands in the air and that he was hit with several shots as he ran.[90][97]

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On August 18, after the release of the autopsy report by Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, Crenshaw told CNN that no shots hit Brown's back as he was running away, "Clearly none of [the shots] hit him, but one, I think, did graze him as they said on the autopsy report. At the end, he just turned around ... after I'm guessing he felt the bullet grazed his arm, he turned around and he was shot multiple times."[98]

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Tiffany Mitchell

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Tiffany Mitchell arrived in the area to pick up coworker Piaget Crenshaw.[39] In an August 13 televised interview with a local CBS affiliate, Mitchell said she saw Brown and Wilson struggling through the window of Wilson's vehicle. "The kid was pulling off and the cop was pulling in." She started to take out her phone to record video, but then she heard a gunshot, "so I just started getting out of the way." After the first shot was fired, Brown started to run away. "After the shot, the kid just breaks away. The cop follows him, kept shooting, the kid's body jerked as if he was hit. After his body jerked he turns around, puts his hands up, and the cop continues to walk up on him and continues to shoot until he goes all the way down."[99]

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Mitchell also appeared on CNN that evening, describing what she witnessed as follows: "As I pull onto the side, the kid, he finally gets away, he starts running. As he runs the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him, shooting. And the kid's body jerked as if he was hit from behind, and he turns around and puts his hands up like this, and the cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete."[100]

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Construction worker

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A construction worker at the nearby apartment complex, who spoke to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on condition of anonymity, said that he saw Brown running away with Wilson 10 to 15 feet behind. About 90 feet away from the vehicle, Wilson fired a shot at Brown, whose back was turned. Brown stumbled, stopped, put his hands up and said "OK, OK, OK, OK, OK." The worker believed Brown had been wounded. With his hands up, Brown began walking toward the officer, at which point Wilson began firing at Brown and backing away. After the third shot, Brown's hands started going down, and he moved about 25 feet toward Wilson, who kept backing away and firing. The worker was unable to discern if Brown's movement toward the officer was "a stumble to the ground" or "OK, I'm going to get you, you're already shooting me." The worker disputed the claim that Brown rushed at the officer, "I don't know if he was going after him or if he was falling down to die. It wasn't a bull rush."[101]

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In a cellphone video obtained by CNN on September 11, which captured the reaction of the construction worker and a colleague, one of them can be heard saying, "He had his fuckin' hands up." The workers said they were approximately 50 feet away from Wilson when he opened fire. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal analyst said that this video could play an important role in the case.[102]

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During his grand jury testimony, the worker said that three officers were present at the time of the shooting, a claim not made by any other witnesses.[103]

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James McKnight

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James McKnight said he witnessed the shooting and that Brown held his hands in the air just after he turned to face Wilson. He stumbled toward the officer, but didn't rush him, and "the officer was about six or seven feet away" from Brown.[43]

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Phillip Walker

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Phillip Walker, a 40-year-old resident of a nearby apartment complex, said he saw Brown walking "at a steady pace" toward Wilson with his hands up and that he "did not rush the officer", adding that Wilson's final shot was from a distance of about four feet.[101]

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Emanuel Freeman

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Emanuel Freeman, a 19-year-old resident of a nearby apartment complex, on witnessing the shooting, began tweeting about the incident two minutes after it began. Freeman stated that Wilson fired twice at Brown while he was running away, and five more times after he turned around to face Wilson.[104][105]

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Grand jury witnesses

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On October 16, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an interview with a black Canfield resident who testified before the grand jury. The man, who did not want his name released, said he saw the entire event. Wilson drove past Johnson and Brown and then backed up again. A scuffle ensued in the police vehicle and Wilson's hat flew off. There was a gunshot from the vehicle, and then Brown ran down the street followed by Wilson. Wilson aimed his gun at Brown and repeatedly yelled "Stop", but did not fire until Brown turned around and stepped toward Wilson. At that point Wilson fired three shots. Brown staggered toward Wilson from 20 feet away with his hands out to his sides, when Wilson fired again. The witness said that Brown was already falling as the last shots were fired and that, in his opinion, the final shots were murder.[50]

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According to several people close to the grand jury investigation, seven or eight witnesses have given testimony consistent with Wilson's account. Details of the testimony were not reported. Speaking on condition of anonymity to The Washington Post, the sources said that the witnesses are all African American, and that they have not spoken publicly out of fear for their safety.[106]

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Bystander heard on video

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An unidentified bystander, heard speaking in the background of a video recorded shortly after the shooting, is heard saying that after Brown stopped running and turned, "Next thing I know he's coming back towards the police. The police had his gun drawn on him. Police kept dumping on him, I'm thinking that the police missed him." The bystander said that he heard "at least five shots". He continued, "I think ... dude start running, kept coming toward the police."[107][108]

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Investigations

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Law enforcement investigations of the shooting

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Police investigation

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On August 10, Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, announced that their department would be in charge of the investigation, after receiving a request from Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson to investigate the shooting.[53][109] The Ferguson Police Department initially declined to name the officer involved in the shooting, citing concerns for his safety, and refused to commit to a deadline for releasing a full autopsy report.[63] Robert P. McCulloch, the elected prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, is the official charged with determining if state charges will be filed.[109] On August 20 he began submitting evidence in the shooting to a grand jury.[110]

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County executive Charlie Dooley called for a special prosecutor, saying that McCulloch is "biased and shouldn't handle the case".[111] Democratic politicians said that the investigation should be conducted by a higher authority than the local prosecutor officer because of a poor history of prosecuting law enforcement officers[112] in controversial cases, and said that McCulloch should withdraw.[113]

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FBI investigation

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On August 11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a civil rights investigation into the incident,[114] and United States Attorney General Eric Holder instructed the Justice Department's staff to monitor developments.[115] According to the spokeswoman for the FBI's St. Louis field office, the protests and riots played no role in the FBI's decision to investigate.[116]

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On August 16, Ron Johnson, a captain in the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said there were 40 FBI agents going door-to-door looking for potential witnesses that may have information about the shooting.[117][118] Additionally, the Justice Department confirmed that attorneys from its Civil Rights Division and from the United States Attorney's Office were participating in the investigation.[118]

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On October 17, The New York Times reported FBI forensics test results showing that Wilson's gun was fired twice in his vehicle. One bullet struck Brown's arm and one missed. Brown's blood was found on the gun, on the interior door panel, and on Wilson's uniform.[38] The unidentified officials, who spoke on terms of anonymity, claimed that this physical evidence "lent credence" to Wilson's version of events.[38]

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Department of Justice investigations

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On August 13, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Richard G. Callahan, announced a civil rights investigation into the case.[119]

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On August 17, Attorney General Holder authorized an additional autopsy of Brown by a federal medical examiner.[120] A spokesperson for the Justice Department cited "the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case" and a request by the Brown family for the autopsy.[120]

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On September 4, the Justice Department announced plans to investigate the Ferguson police department for possible civil rights violations. The DOJ's Civil Rights Division will conduct a "pattern and practice" investigation that will review overall police department policies.[121][122][123][124]

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Robbery incident report and video release

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Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson at the news conference
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On August 15, Ferguson Police Chief Jackson released a report of a strong-arm robbery by Brown of a convenience store, along with a surveillance video of the incident. Brown was accompanied by his friend Dorian Johnson. The report and video were part of a packet that included information about the shooting afterwards.[125][126][127][128][129] The report stated that the convenience store's surveillance footage showed Brown grabbing a box of cigarillos, followed by an "apparent struggle or confrontation" between Brown and a store clerk.[130][131] Freeman Bosley, the attorney for Dorian Johnson, confirmed that Brown and Johnson had entered the store and cigarillos were taken, and that Johnson had informed the authorities of this fact.[65] Chief Jackson said that Johnson would not be charged in the robbery because he did not steal anything or use force.[132]

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The Department of Justice had urged the video not be released, saying a release would inflame tension.[133][134] When asked why the police department released the video, Jackson said that he did so in response to a large number of requests. Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Karr later said that the release was to comply with the statutory deadline in the "Sunshine Law", which was Missouri's equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act.[135]

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The Huffington Post later printed a response from City Attorney Karr that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had requested "all documentation concerning the events leading up to and including the shooting of Michael Brown" including "video retained by the police department" and that Judicial Watch had requested "all records relating to Michael Brown" datedAugust 1 through August 9.[135] Salon disputed "that information about the robbery was released because of media requests."[136] KPLR Channel 11 reporter Mandy Murphey had said on camera, when the video was released, that she had requested it.[137][138] ABC News had also asked for any video and audio recordings associated with the death of Brown.[139]

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Jackson responded to questions about the release of the video, with a statement issued by a public relations firm, which said that the police department "had indeed received numerous requests for video footage that showed the strong-arm robbery that preceded the unfortunate incident involving Michael Brown […] Providing a clear, concise picture of the situation was all the police department was seeking in releasing the robbery footage onAugust 15th."[139]

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Jackson drew criticism for his department's release of information, which was described by the Associated Press as "infrequent" and "erratic".[140]

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Missouri Governor Jay Nixon criticized the release of the robbery video as an "attempt in essence to disparage the character [of Brown] in the middle of a process" and said that it inflamed the community.[141][142]

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Reactions

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"Hands up!" sign displayed at a Ferguson protest
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A makeshift memorial placed during protests
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The family of Michael Brown released a statement in which they condemn the way the police chief chose to disseminate information, which they said it was "intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight", and "there is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender."[64][143]

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Anthony Rothert, the legal director for the Missouri branch of the ACLU, who had sued for the release of the incident report describing Brown's shooting, told ABC News in response to the report that "I think it's fair to say that releasing some records, but not releasing others when they're equally public record seems to be an intentional effort to distract the public. They're hiding it for whatever reason ... That leaves the public to imagine why that's being hidden."[144]

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Wayne Fisher, a professor with the Rutgers University Police Institute in New Jersey, said that "if the robbery in any way caused the initial contact, it has relevance ... if it didn't, it has none. The use of deadly force in this situation will be authorized if the officer reasonably believed his life was in danger, that question does not appear to be directly related to whether or not Brown was a suspect in a robbery." Eugene O'Donnell, a former district attorney in New York City who now serves as a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that while the police officer may have stopped Brown for jaywalking, Brown may have been thinking the officer knew about the robbery: "Obviously the cop's reaction is not affected, but what could be affected is [Brown's] reaction to the cop."[145]

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Daniel Isom II, a retired St. Louis police chief who now teaches at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was critical of Jackson's leadership, saying that: "It's clear the Ferguson chief is overwhelmed by the magnitude of this incident. He has been releasing information as he sees appropriate, but maybe not taking into consideration the impact of releasing that information."[146]

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Six weeks after the incident, the City of Ferguson released a video in which Jackson apologized to Brown's family for taking too long to remove Brown's body from the street, and to any peaceful protesters who felt he had not done enough to protect their exercise of their constitutional rights. Jackson said, "For any mistakes I've made, I take full responsibility."[147] He also said that he was truly sorry for the Browns' loss of their son. An attorney for Brown's family responded that the apology came at a time when trust in Jackson had "reached an irreversible low".[147]

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Calvin Whitaker, the livery service driver under contract with the city and tasked with transporting Brown's remains to the morgue, later told reporters that a major factor in the delay of the retrieval of Brown's body was a lack of scene safety, and explained that he and his wife, also a licensed funeral director who accompanied him to the scene, were under advisement by police to remain in their vehicle until the scene could be secured, noting that an individual had recently, at 2:12 p.m., fired shots from the general area of the gathering crowd, and Whitaker and his wife were without bulletproof vests or other safety equipment.[148][149] The St. Louis Post-Dispatchalso asserted that while the amount of time that Brown's body remained on the street was long, it was not unprecedented in instances of police involved shootings in the area.[150] Staffing issues and police inexperience in dealing with this type of situation, the newspaper stated, were both also other potential factors in the delay.[148]

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Audio recording of gunshots

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On August 27, CNN released an audio recording which purportedly contains the sounds of the shooting.[151][152][153][154] In a statement from his lawyer, a man whose identity has not been revealed claims to have been recording a video-text message at the time of the shooting.[155] The twelve-second recording contains a series of shots, a short pause, and then a second series of shots.[155] CNN's audio expert Paul Ginsberg says he heard six shots, a pause, and then four additional shots. Ginsberg said, "I was very concerned about that pause ... because it's not just the number of gunshots, it's how they're fired. And that has a huge relevance on how this case might finally end up." Others, including the anonymous man's lawyer, say they can hear eleven shots.[156]

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CNN gave the recording to the FBI for analysis. Former LAPD officer David Klinger and Tom Fuentes, a CNN law enforcement analyst, raised concerns that the recording may have been manipulated or trimmed, citing the two-week delay between the shooting and the release of the audio. Fuentes noted that most accounts of the shooting say there was a single shot earlier in the incident near the vehicle that is not audible in the recording. Fuentes further stated that if the recording is authenticated, it can be used to bolster both sides of the argument of what happened during the shooting.[157][158][159] On August 28, Glide, a video messaging service, confirmed that the audio had been recorded on their site at 12:02 p.m. on the day of the shooting.[160][161]

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The recording was analyzed by ShotSpotter, a company which developed technology to identify and locate urban gunshots in real time, using microphones mounted throughout a city. ShotSpotter could not verify, with available information, that the recording is of the Michael Brown shooting. The company did say that it is the sound of ten gunshots within less than seven seconds, with a three-second pause after the sixth shot. It also said that all ten rounds were fired from within a three-foot (1 m) radius—that the shooter was not moving. It identified seven additional sounds as echoes of gunshots.[162]

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Physical evidence

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According to several people involved with the investigation, blood spatter analysis indicated that Brown was heading toward the officer during their face-off, but Brown's movement rate could not be determined from the evidence. The location of shell casings and ballistics tests were also consistent with Wilson's account.[106]

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Blood was found on Wilson's gun and inside the car, and tissue from Brown was found on the exterior of the driver's side of Wilson's vehicle, consistent with a struggle at that location. The blood on Wilson's gun indicated that Brown's hand had been very close to the weapon when it was fired, consistent with Wilson's testimony that there had been a struggle over the weapon.[163]

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Michael Brown shooting scene diagram.svg
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Diagram of shooting scene[164][11][165]
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According to the evidence presented to the grand jury, the crime scene extends approximately 184 feet (56 m) along Canfield Drive, near where it intersects Copper Creek Court. The two-lane street runs in an approximately west-to-east direction and has sidewalks and curbs on both sides. Immediately prior to the incident, Brown was walking eastbound on Canfield and Wilson was driving westbound. Evidence at the scene was generally clustered around Wilson's SUV on the western side of the scene and near Brown's body, which was in the eastern part of the area.

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The 30-foot (9.1 m) western area included Wilson's police vehicle, which was angled slightly towards the right curb. The driver's side of the vehicle, the left side, was situated so that the rear of the vehicle was on the center line. Evidence included two bracelets, a baseball cap, and two .40 caliber spent casings. One of these casings was found at the western edge of the scene and the other is located near the rear driver's side of the police vehicle. There were two groups of red stains near the driver's side of the vehicle and a left sandal was also located in the vicinity. The right sandal was approximately 44 feet (13 m) east of the western area.

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The eastern area, which is approximately 124 feet (38 m) east of the western area, is about 29 feet (8.8 m) wide. Brown's body was situated along the center-line of the road with his head oriented in a westerly direction. The distance from the driver's door of the SUV to Brown's head was about 153 feet (47 m). Two groups of red stains were located at the extreme eastern edge of the scene, with the furthest just under 22 feet (6.7 m) from Brown's feet.

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One apparent projectile was found near the body. There were ten spent .40 caliber casings scattered on the south side of the road, near Brown's body.[164]

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Autopsies

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Three autopsies have been performed on Brown's body. All three noted that Brown had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head, with no shots in his back.[166]

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The county autopsy report, however, did describe gun shot entry and exit wounds to Mike Brown's right arm coming from both front (ventral) and back (dorsal). It is important to note that what is described as anatomical "front" or 'ventral' is with the palms facing forward, though when the arms hang naturally from the shoulders, the palms face backwards.[167]

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County autopsy

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The local medical examiner autopsy report released to state prosecutors said that Brown was shot in the front part of his body. When Mary Case, the St. Louis County medical examiner, was asked to provide details, she declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation into Brown's death.[43][168] The official county autopsy was later leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[163]

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The narrative report of investigation from the office of the medical examiner of St. Louis agreed with Wilson's testimony.[163] It noted that Brown had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the head, torso, and right arm, as well as a single gunshot wound to the inside of his right hand "near his thumb and palm"; it also noted that Brown's body had abrasions to the right side of his face and on the back of his left hand.[169]

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The autopsy noted the absence of stippling, powder burns around a wound which indicate that a shot was fired at a relatively short range; however, Dr. Michael Graham, the St. Louis medical examiner, notes that gunshot wounds within an inch of the body do not always cause stippling. Microscopic examination of tissue taken from the thumb wound detected the presence of a foreign material consistent with the material which is ejected from a gun while firing. Forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek was quoted in the article as saying the hand wound was consistent with Brown reaching for the gun at the time he was shot. Melinek was also quoted as saying that the autopsy did not support witnesses who claimed that Brown was shot while fleeing the crime scene or with his hands up, noting that the direction of the gunshot wound on Brown's forearm indicated that Brown's palms could not have been facing Wilson.[163]

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However, Melinek later disputed the Dispatch's version of her interview. She claimed in an Interview with Lawrence O'Donnell that she never said that the autopsy supported only Wilson's version of events. Melinek said, "I'm not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation. I'm saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that," she said, according to MSNBC. "I have limited information. It could also be consistent with other scenarios. That's the important thing. That's why the witnesses need to speak to the grand jury and the grand jury needs to hear all the unbiased testimony and compare those statements to the physical evidence".[170]

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The gunshot wound to the top of Brown's head was consistent with Brown either falling forward or being in a lunging position; the shot was instantly fatal.[163]

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A toxicology test performed by a St. Louis University laboratory revealed the presence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in Brown's blood and urine. The presence of THC indicates that Brown had used marijuana within a few hours of his death, but it could not be determined whether or not Brown was impaired at the time of his death.[163]

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Independent autopsy

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On August 17, a preliminary autopsy was conducted by Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, at the request of Michael Brown's family. According to the report, Brown was shot six times into his front: four of the bullets entered his right arm, one entered his right eye on a downward trajectory, and one entered the top of his skull.[6] According to Baden, all of the rounds were fired from a distance of at least one to two feet.[171] Baden stated, "This one here looks like his head was bent downward, it can be because he's giving up, or because he's charging forward at the officer."[6][86][172]

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One of the shots to Brown's head shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, then exited his jaw and reentered his collarbone. The shot that entered the top of Brown's skull caused the fatal injury, according to Baden. Baden also provided a diagram of the entry wounds, noting that the six shots produced multiple wounds, with some of the bullets entering and exiting several times.[6] He also said that Brown could have survived the first bullet wounds, but the bullet that entered the top of his head resulted in a fatal injury.[173]

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Baden had no access to the clothing of the victim, and had not yet seen the x-rays showing where bullets were in the body. He could not determine if any gunpowder residue was on that clothing. He stated that, "Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting," and that, in his capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, he would have said, "You're not supposed to shoot so many times."[6] At least two commentators have noted that the autopsy contradicts some aspects of some eyewitness accounts, including that Wilson shot Brown in the back[6] and that Wilson shot Brown while holding Brown's neck.[174]

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In later analysis, Baden reclassified one of Brown's chest wounds as an entry wound.[175]

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Dr. Baden was assisted by Shawn Parcells, who does not have a degree or other credentials in medicine or pathology.[176][177] Dr. Thomas Young, former Jackson County Medical Examiner, said that Parcells is giving out forensic pathology opinions when he is not qualified to do so.[176] Dr. Mary Case, who performed the initial autopsy, said that Parcells' involvement could cause issues with the second autopsy.[178] Parcells says that all he did was assist Dr. Baden.[179]

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Brown's body was washed and embalmed after the first autopsy, which may have impacted the results of the second autopsy.[180][181][182][183]

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Federal autopsy

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Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a third autopsy of Michael Brown.[184][185][186] On August 19, military coroners released the autopsy results to federal authorities showing that Brown was shot six times, but declined to release additional details until the federal investigation is concluded.[43]

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Grand jury hearing

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On August 20, a county grand jury started hearing evidence in the shooting of Brown in order to decide "whether a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed it".[110]

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The members were impaneled in May 2014, a few months before the shooting, and included three blacks (one man and two women) and nine whites (six men and three women), which roughly corresponded to the "racialmakeup" of St. Louis County.[187] Requests for more information about the jurors were denied by the judge.[188]

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The case was presented to the grand jury by assistant prosecutors Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley.[189][190]

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The St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, said the state will finish presenting evidence to the grand jury "hopefully by the middle of October...[110][191] If necessary, this grand jury can keep meeting untilJanuary 7, 2015."[192] The prosecutor's office said that all the evidence in the case will eventually be made public if there is no indictment.[193][194] On November 23, court administrator Paul Fox released a memorandum stating that he had been inaccurately quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article which ran the same day. According to the court administrator, Judge Carolyn Whittington must analyze any records in the case before granting a motion to make them public, and this analysis cannot be conducted before the grand jury makes a final determination.[195]

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Prosecutor McCulloch had the authority to bypass the grand jury and take the case to a preliminary hearing, but he chose to present all the evidence to the grand jury, leaving to jurors the decision of what charges might be brought, if any.[192] His spokesperson acknowledged that it is "unusual" that the prosecutor is not asking the grand jury to endorse a specific charge.[192]

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On August 21, State Senator Jamilah Nasheed presented a petition with 70,000 signatures calling for McCulloch's recusal, based on the close relationship between the St. Louis County prosecutor and the police department, citing also accusations that McCulloch did not file charges, as he should have, against two undercover officers who shot and killed two unarmed black men in 2000, and other controversies.[196][197][198][199]

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Media reports characterized Prosecutor McCulloch as "not impartial," as his father was a police officer killed in an incident with an African-American suspect, while his mother, brother, uncle, and cousin had all served with the St. Louis Police Department; Newsweek reported McCulloch's "long history of siding with the police."[200]

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On September 16, Wilson testified before the grand jury for more than four hours, and according to sources with knowledge of the investigation Wilson was "cooperative". Wilson was not obligated to testify.[194] The transcript of Wilson's testimony from September 16 was released after the grand jury's decision was announced.[201]

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The grand jury was presented evidence that resulted in 24 volumes totaling more than 5,000 pages of testimony from 60 witnesses during 25 days over the course of three months,[10]

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On November 17, Governor Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the Missouri National Guard prior to the grand jury decision.[202]

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Grand jury instructions

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The instructions to the grand jury given by prosecutors before they started the deliberations, stated that "[…]you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not act in lawful self-defense and you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not use lawful force in making an arrest. If you find those things, which is kind of like finding a negative, you cannot return an indictment on anything or true bill unless you find both of those things. Because both are complete defenses to any offense and they both have been raised in his, in the evidence. [sic]" In other words, the prosecutors instructed the jury that they had to find not only that there was probable cause to believe Wilson had committed a crime, but also that he did not act in self-defense and that he did not act to make an arrest.[203][204]

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Legal analysts raised concerns on the manner in which Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizade and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sheila Whirley gave the final instructions to the grand jury, while explaining the law that should be applied in deciding whether to indict Wilson, particularly when Alizade told the jurors that "[p]reviously, in the very beginning of this process, I printed out a statute for you that was, the statute in Missouri for the use of force to affect an arrest. […] What we have discovered, and we have been going along with this, doing our research, is that the statute in the State of Missouri does not comply with the case law." When a juror requested clarification, Whirley responded "We don't want to get into a law class."[205] Georgetown adjunct law professor and legal analyst Kenneth Jost said that "the grand jurors had in mind the prosecutors' mistake of law that completely excused Wilson", while they listened to Wilson's testimony, and that "[a]sking the grand jurors three months later to ignore the mistake was surely a fruitless attempt to unring the bell."[206]

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Announcement of no bill

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On November 24 at 10:59 P.M., Prosecutor McCulloch reported in a 20-minute press conference that the grand jury reached a decision in the case and elected "not to indict Wilson."[207]

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The Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank observed that the Brown jury's refusal to indict Wilson marked the fifth time in 23 years that McCullogh had presented evidence to a grand jury in prosecuting an officer-involved shooting, and that none of these cases had gone to trial.[208]

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Following the grand jury announcement, protests, some of them violent, broke out in Ferguson and other cities across the United States. Several Ferguson businesses were looted and fires set by protesters.[209] Protests erupted in 170 cities across the US including,[210] St Louis, Philadelphia, Seattle, Albuquerque, New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Oakland, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, Chicago and Boston.[211]

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Protesters react the day following the grand jury decision in Union Square, Manhattan in New York City.
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The stencilled sign at this Boise, Idaho solidarity rally reads "Whites fear people of color may 'lecture' them. People of color fear that whites may SHOOT them."
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In London on November 26, hundreds of protesters demonstrated peacefully outside the US Embassy.[212] A small rally of roughly 100 people was held in solidarity in Boise, Idaho at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.[213]

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Controversy

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Some legal experts asserted that McCulloch deflected responsibility for failing to indict Wilson, and created conditions in which the grand jury would not indict him either. Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University, said that "As a strategic move, it was smart; he got what he wanted without being seen as directly responsible for the result," and called the case "the most unusual marshaling of a grand jury's resources I've seen in my 25 years as a lawyer and scholar."[9] The New Yorker's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, accused McCulloch for implementing "a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else". Other legal experts chided McCulloch for not challenging Wilson's account of the shooting.[9]

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