The official autopsy of Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown is consistent with police accounts that the shooting came after Brown reached for the officer’s gun during an altercation, according to forensics experts who reviewed the autopsy report for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The full autopsy report was leaked to the local paper and on Tuesday it reported on the report’s findings and solicited the opinions of outside experts unaffiliated with the case.
The New York Times reported last week that Wilson told the grand jury that will decide whether to charge him for Brown’s death that Brown had reached for his gun during their altercation. The police version of the August incident that ignited long-simmering racial tensions in the northern St. Louis suburb is that the Brown that Wilson stopped Brown and a friend while they were walking in the middle of the street. Brown and Wilson then got into a physical altercation while the officer was still in his vehicle, and Brown reached into the police car for Wilson’s gun. Wilson also sustained injuries to his face and neck, according to police accounts.
The official autopsy, conducted by the St. Louis County medical examiner, concluded that Brown had nine gunshot wounds: three to his head, two to his chest, three to his right arm, and one to his hand.
It was the wound to Brown’s hand, experts told the Post-Dispatch, that are consistent with a close-range struggle.
An additional exam concluded that the wound to Brown’s hand had “foreign particulate matter … consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm.”
The finding “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound,” Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said. “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”
In total, Melinek told the paper, the autopsy cast doubt on eyewitness accounts that Brown was running away from Wilson and had his hands in the air when Wilson shot him.
Michael Graham, medical examiner for the city of St. Louis, told the newspaper that the autopsy “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.”
“Someone got an injury that tore off skin and left it on the car,” Graham said. “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.”
The Times reported last week on Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury, citing “government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.” Wilson reportedly told the jurors that Brown had reached for his gun in an altercation in Wilson’s car.
Forensic investigators also found Brown’s blood on the gun, inside the car, and on Wilson’s uniform, according to the Times.