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Saturday, November 18, 2017

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times

FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy found, a Brown family attorney said Sunday night.

This mostly black St. Louis suburb has been racked by unrest since Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer Aug. 9. More turmoil erupted hours before the midnight curfew was to take effect.

Protesters have marched every night since Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, was killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Some demonstrations have been punctuated by looting, vandalism, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

On Sunday, the Brown family received a diagram from the private autopsy performed by former New York City Medical Examiner Michael M. Baden, family attorney Anthony Gray said. The diagram showed six entry wounds, including two to the head, he said.

“It raises the same questions we had before,” he said, adding, “the bullet marks on the body are consistent with the witness statements.”

One of the wounds was on top of Brown’s head, Gray said.

“To have a shot that’s at a 90-degree angle from the top of his skull to the bottom of his chin, almost vertical, that sounds like an officer standing over him,” he said.

Baden said his examination suggested that none of the six bullets was fired at point-blank range, but all were fired from at least 1 to 2 feet away.

“There’s no evidence of powder residue,” Baden said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Baden said two bullets struck Brown in the head: one in the forehead, and one at the top of the head — fired at “a right angle to the top of the head.”

“The top of the head one was the one that would have made him unconscious and fall to the ground,” Baden said.

But it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from that, he said, without also considering witness statements and marks on Brown’s clothing. “The head is very moveable, and it can be in a number of positions,” he said.

At least one of the wounds to Brown’s arm “could have been defensive,” Baden said.

The autopsy results were first reported by The New York Times.

Police say Brown had participated in a strong-arm robbery at a mini-mart shortly before his encounter with the Ferguson police officer.

At least one witness who was accompanying Brown that afternoon has said Brown was shot as he walked away from the police officer with his hands raised, and then was hit with additional bullets.

Earlier Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. instructed the Justice Department to have a federal medical examiner perform an autopsy on Brown, citing “extraordinary circumstances” and the family’s request. It will be the third autopsy in the case, counting the local official one.

Holder’s decision is the latest development showing that federal investigators are conducting a far different probe than local officials. Federal authorities are reviewing the shooting to determine if there were any civil rights violations, while local officials said they were trying to determine whether the officer was justified in using lethal force.

Earlier Sunday, more than 1,300 participants filled Greater Grace Church and spilled out the door for an afternoon rally hosted by Brown’s family, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the National Bar Association.

Sharpton urged the community to take positive action, and to vote. “Don’t loot in Michael’s name,” he implored. He added: “You all got to start voting and showing up — 12 percent turnout is an insult to your children.”

Among those who attended and spoke was Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald Johnson, who took charge of the police response to protests late last week at Gov. Jay Nixon’s direction.

Johnson, appearing in uniform, told the crowd that he had met Saturday with some of Brown’s relatives.

“They brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart,” Johnson said. “I wear this uniform. And I should stand up here and say I’m sorry.”

On Sunday night, as protesters returned to the streets, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted about 9:15 p.m. Central: “Molotov cocktails (were) being thrown at police. Tactical units on the scene. Please leave the area!”

Authorities said gunshots had been reported in the central demonstration area and warned people to clear the streets.

Protesters were marching peacefully, holding their hands in the air and chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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