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.
There were fresh protests and violence on Sunday night in Ferguson, Mo. Police in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until they were hit by another volley of tear gas.
According to the autopsy, 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, said Dr. Michael M. 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. It was likely the last of the 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 that there is gunshot residue on Brown’s clothing, to which Baden did not have access.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy.
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.”
“This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said.
“Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.”
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. Attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, and that the move is “not that unusual.”
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.
As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a bullhorn that the protest was no longer peaceful.
“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 cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”
The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Officials said a day earlier that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9.
He also said federal authorities want to calm public fears that no action will be taken on the case.
President Barack Obama, who has been getting regular briefings on the situation in Ferguson while on vacation, also was to be briefed by Holder upon returning Monday to the White House.
Saturday night protests also ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armored vehicles to disperse defiant protesters.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters weren’t the reason for the escalated police reaction early Sunday after the midnight curfew took effect, but there was a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken to the roof, and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.
Ferguson Police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed, though Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.
Gov. Jay Nixon, who imposed the curfew after declaring a state of emergency as protests turned violent to start the weekend, said Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.
“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.
Protesters on Sunday night had laid a line of cinder blocks across the pavement near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles plowed through with ease. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and gunshots rang out several blocks away.
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