Michael Brown, the teenager shot multiple times and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, was shot at least one time from behind as he fled from Wilson, Brown’s autopsy report reveals — in a detail that has been largely overlooked until recently.
Most reporting of the leaked autopsy results has focused on the alleged findings that Michael Brown suffered a bullet wound at close range to his hand, and that most of the bullet wounds that he suffered struck him from in front, meaning that he was facing Wilson when the officer fired at him.
But there was one shot that, according to forensic pathologist Judy Melinek, hit Brown on the back of his upper arm, consistent with a shot fired at the fleeing teenager’s back.
Multiple witnesses said that Brown fled from Wilson after some sort of altercation in the officer’s patrol car. Wilson chased Brown and fired at him from behind, the witnesses said. Initial media reporting on the autopsy results leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch appeared to discredit those witnesses, saying that Brown showed frontal wounds.
But the media reports largely ignored the single wound that clearly hit Brown from behind, indicating that Darren Wilson fired his weapon at an unarmed, fleeing teenager, aiming at his back.
Initial media reports also stated that the wound to Brown’s thumb — a powder burn and a grazing wound from a bullet — appeared to confirm Daren Wilson’s contention, reportedly in his grand jury testimony, that Brown reached for the officer’s service weapon while Wilson sat in his car.
Other commentators, however, have noted that the wound which ran along Brown’s thumb and outward over his thumb print is more consistent with a defensive wound, caused by Brown attempting to push Wilson’s gun away after the officer had already drawn it and leveled the weapon at him, threatening to kill him.
Melinek also said that Brown’s wound was indeed consistent with a scenario in which Brown was trying to defend himself from Wilson, who was pointing a gun at him from close range.
The official autopsy report findings have not been released to the public. The leak to the St. Louis newspaper, whose story was then carried nationally, was unauthorized. Melinek was not involved in the autopsy and later said her comments had been misinterpreted by The Post-Dispatch.
Melinek added that Brown’s frontal wounds could be consistent with witness reports that his hands were raised in surrender as he faced Wilson, but the officer shot him dead anyway.