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County Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Had Close-Range Wound To Hand

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained the official coroner's report on the death of the teen, who was shot in August in a confrontation with police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. The toxicology report also said that Brown had marijuana in his system at the time of the shooting.

Posted on October 22, 2014, at 7:41 a.m. ET

The official autopsy on Michael Brown — the teen who was shot dead by a police officer in August, sparking unrest in Ferguson, Missouri — revealed he sustained a close-range gunshot wound to hand, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The image of 18-year-old Michael Brown on a tie worn by his father, Michael Brown Sr., at his funeral service in St. Louis in August
Adrees Latif / Reuters

The image of 18-year-old Michael Brown on a tie worn by his father, Michael Brown Sr., at his funeral service in St. Louis in August

The accompanying toxicology report indicates Brown had marijuana in his system at the time of the shooting.

The reports, obtained by the Post-Dispatch after being written by the St. Louis County medical examiner, provide the most detailed description so far of Brown's wounds after he was shot by police officer Darren Wilson.

A source with knowledge of Wilson's statements said he told investigators about a struggle between Brown and Wilson inside a police SUV, according to the newspaper. Wilson then reportedly fired the gun twice, with one shot hitting Brown in the hand.

County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham, speaking to the Post-Dispatch, said Tuesday that the autopsy "does support that there was a significant altercation at the car." Graham is not part of the official investigation.

Via the Post-Dispatch:

Graham said the examination indicated a shot traveled from the tip of Brown's right thumb toward his wrist. The official report notes an absence of stippling, powder burns around a wound that indicate a shot fired at relatively short range.

But Graham said, "Sometimes when it's really close, such as within an inch or so, there is no stipple, just smoke."

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist from San Francisco, told the paper that the autopsy "supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound."

"If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he's going for the officer's gun," she added. The Post-Dispatch also cited sources that state Brown's blood had been found on Wilson's gun.

Melinek also said the findings don't support the claim that Brown was shot either with his hands up, or while he was running away. The wounds indicate that Brown was either falling forward or lunging toward the shooter at the time of the fatal shot, she said.

She said Brown was facing Wilson when Brown took a shot to the forehead, two shots to the chest and a shot to the upper right arm. The wound to the top of Brown's head would indicate he was falling forward or in a lunging position toward the shooter; the shot was instantly fatal.

A sixth shot that hit the forearm traveled from the back of the arm to the inner arm, which means Brown's palms could not have been facing Wilson, as some witnesses have said, Melinek said. That trajectory shows Brown probably was not taking a standard surrender position with arms above the shoulders and palms out when he was hit, she said.

This is the second official autopsy report of Brown. Three autopsies are being conducted.

In August, Brown's family asked former New York City Chief Medical Examiner Michael Baden to conduct a private autopsy. He also found that Brown was shot six times, and that the fatal bullet entered the top of his head either because the teen was giving up or charging at the officer.

Attorneys for Brown's family said at the time that head shot went from a "back to front position" — consistent with eyewitnesses who said Brown was surrendering.

He also said there was no gunshot residue on his body, meaning Brown may not have been shot at close range. Still, Baden said, that was inconclusive because he didn't have access to Brown clothes.

The Department of Justice is also conducting a federal autopsy on Brown, though the results have not yet been made public. In August, the Washington Post reported that the federal autopsy found that Brown was shot six times, but not in the back.

The Post-Dispatch also ran an account of what Wilson told investigators after the shooting, according to a source. Wilson described a struggle with Brown inside his SUV, then a confrontation with him on the street:

Wilson said Brown had not had his hands up; his left hand was slightly out, fingers pointing down. His right hand was grasping his shirt. Then, Wilson told investigators, Brown began running toward him.

Wilson said he had yelled for Brown to stop, then fired, the source said. Brown flinched as if he was hit, and Wilson said he had stopped shooting. Brown continued running toward him, and Wilson said he had fired several more shots. The source said that Wilson had recalled that Brown's head was down when the last shot hit him there.