Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

More violence in Ferguson; autopsy finds 6 shots hit Missouri teen (w/video)

FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager whose death at the hands of police sparked protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed Sunday found.

Meanwhile, on the second night of a mandatory curfew, the most chaotic violence in a week of unrest broke out here Sunday evening with law enforcement officers responding to reports of gunfire and fire bombs.

The violence began about 9 p.m. local time along one of the city's main streets, within two blocks of where Brown was fatally shot. Hundreds of police officers turned out in riot gear, shooting rubber bullets and firing canisters of tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowd. Some in the crowd retrieved the smoking canisters and threw them back toward the officers.

It was not immediately clear what set off the violence, but there were reports that the police feared that some of the protesters were trying to encroach on their command post in a shopping center parking lot.

Key Smith, 46, a retired veteran who served in Iraq, said that he, his wife and their 7-year-old son had traveled two hours from Fort Valley, Missouri, to attend a church rally to honor the memory of Brown and they were caught up in the violence as they were trying to get home.

"I just came out to see a peaceful rally," Smith said. "It takes away from his death, his memory."

Smith said he did not blame the police for their response.

"You have to disperse the crowd if the crowd gets wild," he said. "This is getting out of hand. It's kind of sad that it's come to this. If you really want to hit them in the right way, get out there and vote."

After the initial barrage of tear gas, the police formed into ranks and moved down the street, pushing the protesters from the area.

Earlier, Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family's request to conduct the separate autopsy, said one of the bullets that hit Brown entered the top of his, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.

Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, Baden said, adding that all the bullets were fired from the front.

The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunshot powder was present on his body. However, that determination could change if it turns out that there is gunshot residue on Brown's clothing, to which Baden did not have access.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that the Justice Department would conduct its own autopsy, in addition to the one performed by local officials and this private one because, a department spokesman said, of "the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family."

The preliminary autopsy results are the first time that some of the critical information resulting in Brown's death has been made public. Thousands of protesters demanding information and justice for what was widely viewed as a reckless shooting took to the streets in Ferguson, a suburb north of St. Louis, in rallies that ranged from peaceful to violent.

On Sunday, pastors, the police and civil rights figures joined parishioners in churches, all trying to tamp down the anger that has followed the fatal shooting.

In a packed sanctuary at Greater Grace Church, not far from the site of evening demonstrations, Capt. Ronald Johnson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol captain brought in by the governor to take over security, spoke with the cadence of a preacher as he apologized to Brown's family.

"My heart goes out to you, and I say that I'm sorry," Johnson said. "I wear this uniform, and I should stand up here and say that I'm sorry."

Time and again, Johnson won applause. But in a vivid display of the challenges faced by the authorities in this tumultuous city of 21,000, a large crowd outside the church continued to protest the circumstances of Brown's death. The shooting of the teenager on Aug. 9 by a white officer, Darren Wilson, is the subject of concurrent inquiries by the FBI and the St. Louis County police.

Hours earlier, just after a midnight curfew went into effect, police officers dressed in riot gear and driving heavily armored vehicles engaged in a new clash with angry demonstrators. One person threw a bottle rocket that lit the street ablaze and left a lingering scent of gasoline. Soon, a police caravan with lights flashing began rolling toward the protesters.

Authorities said seven people were arrested during the night.

Officials extended the curfew, which runs from midnight until 5 a.m., for another night and said they would decide each day whether to continue it.

In St. Louis on Sunday, about 100 people turned out in a show of support for Wilson, according to local media reports.

The Police Department of Ferguson has come under criticism for refusing to clarify the circumstances of the shooting and for responding to protests with military-style operational gear.

"People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day One," Baden said in an interview Sunday after performing the autopsy. "They don't do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a coverup. We are hoping to alleviate that."

Baden said that while Brown was shot at least six times, only three bullets were recovered from his body. But he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, which would clarify the autopsy results.

He stressed that his information does not assign blame or justify the shooting.

Baden, 80, is a well-known New York-based medical examiner, who is one of about 400 board-certified forensic pathologists in the nation. He reviewed the autopsies of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has performed more than 20,000 autopsies himself.

Baden said that because of the tremendous attention to the case, he waived his $10,000 fee.

According to what has emerged in the investigation, Brown and a companion, Dorian Johnson, were walking in the middle of a street, a fistful of cigarillos in Brown's hand that a videotape showed he stole from a liquor store. They were stopped by Officer Wilson, who ordered them off the road and onto the sidewalk, Johnson, who is 22, later said.

The police have said that what happened next was a physical struggle between Brown and Wilson that left Wilson with a swollen face. Johnson and others have said that it was a classic case of racial profiling and police aggression from a white officer toward a black man. Within minutes, Brown, who was unarmed, was dead of gunshot wounds.

     
 
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