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.
One of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to 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 autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he 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 there is gunshot residue on Brown’s clothing, to which Baden did not have access.
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The results of the initial autopsy, by St. Louis County, have not yet been released.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday 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 here in rallies that ranged from peaceful to violent.
Brown died last week in a confrontation with a police officer in this suburb of St. Louis. The police department has come under harsh criticism for refusing to clarify the circumstances of the shooting and for responding to protests with military-style gear.
“People have been asking: how many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day One,” Baden said Sunday after performing the autopsy. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”
Baden said that three bullets were recovered from Brown’s body, but that he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where they were found, which would clarify the autopsy results. Nor has he had access to witness and police statements.
Baden provided a diagram of the entry wounds, and noted that some of the bullets entered and exited several times, leaving at least five wounds.
“This one here looks like his head was bent downward,” he said, indicating the wound at the very top of Brown’s head. “It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer.”
Baden, 80, is a well-known New York-based medical examiner, who is one of only about 400 board-certified forensic pathologists in the nation. He is best known for having hosted the HBO show “Autopsy.”
Professor Shawn Parcells, a pathologist assistant based in Kansas, assisted Baden.
The two medical experts conducted the four-hour examination Sunday at the Austin A. Layne Mortuary in St. Louis. Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Brown’s family who paid their travel expenses, hired them.
Baden said he consulted with the St. Louis County medical examiner before conducting the autopsy.
One of the bullets shattered Brown’s right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone. The last two shots in the head would have stopped him in his tracks and were likely the last fired.
Brown, he said, would not have survived the shooting even if he had been taken to a hospital right away. The autopsy indicated he was otherwise healthy.
The shooting is under investigation by St. Louis County and by the FBI, working with the Justice Department’s civil-rights division and Holder’s office.
According to what has emerged so far, on Aug. 9, Brown, along with a companion, Dorian Johnson, were walking in the middle of Canfield Drive, a fistful of cigarillos in Brown’s hand that a videotape showed he stole from a liquor store.
At 12:01 p.m., they were stopped by Darren Wilson, a police officer, 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.