Federal autopsy ordered for teen shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri

FERGUSON Mo. Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:07pm EDT

1 of 9. Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Related Video

Related Topics

FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal autopsy of a teenager shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, seeking to assure the family and community there will be a thorough investigation into a death that has sparked days of racially charged protests.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The police department in the St. Louis suburb has come under strong criticism for both the death of an unarmed man and its handling of the aftermath.

Seven protesters were arrested early on Sunday after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon imposed an overnight curfew aimed at quelling protests and looting. Police used canisters of smoke and later teargas to disperse the crowd, a Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman said.

Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, entrusted by the governor with restoring order, told hundreds of people gathered at a local church for a rally that he was committed to protecting their right to protest.

"I'm sorry," Johnson, who is black, told Brown's family during remarks that prompted repeated standing ovations. "My heart is heavy."

The rally was led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

Holder called for the federal autopsy, in addition to one being conducted by state medical examiners, "due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family," Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said.

The family is also planning to have a pathologist conduct an independent examination of the body, a family spokesman said.


The early morning clash occurred when demonstrators remained in the streets after the curfew took effect at midnight. The seven people arrested had failed to disperse, police said.

A person was shot and critically wounded during the night. It was not clear why, and the shooter was still at large, police said. Johnson said police were unable to identify the victim, who he said was not shot by police.

Johnson also said someone had shot at a passing police car but was not apprehended.

The smoke and teargas canisters largely dispersed the crowd.

"It was the minimum amount of force that we could have used to get them moving," said Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Al Nothum. He said on Sunday the patrol did not know if the curfew would be extended for a second night.

Nixon said that in spite of the clashes, the curfew was a success and the community deserved credit. Speaking on

CNN's news show "State of the Union," the governor said he did not know how long the curfew would be in place.

He criticized the Ferguson police department for its decision on Friday to release a video that allegedly showed Brown taking part in a convenience store robbery shortly before the shooting. Police have said the officer who shot Brown had no idea he was a robbery suspect.

"I think it had an incendiary effect," Nixon said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Police "clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting," he added.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson defended the release of the surveillance video, over the objections of the U.S. Justice Department. Jackson said he was complying with the news media's requests for information in the case.

The decision to release the video while not giving details of the shooting only fueled outrage. The clashes in Ferguson have pitted mostly black protesters against mostly white police in a residential and retail district.


President Barack Obama has been getting regular briefings while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, including from senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Jarrett spoke with Nixon on Saturday to get an update and offer the administration's continued coordination and support with state and local officials, a White House spokesman said. Jarrett had also been in touch with civil rights leaders, including Sharpton and NAACP President Cornell Brooks over the last few days, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the St. Louis County Police department are investigating Brown's death, which has been described differently by the police and by a friend who was walking with him at the time.

Police say that after Wilson asked Brown to move out of the road onto a sidewalk, Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson for the officer's service gun. Wilson, who sustained a facial injury, then shot Brown a number of times.

The friend, Dorian Johnson, 22, and at least one other witness have said the officer reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and the teenager was trying to get away from the officer when he was shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but the officer got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.

In Los Angeles on Sunday, civil rights activists and supporters of the family of another young black man shot dead by police, Ezell Ford, planned to rally outside LAPD headquarters. The family of the 25-year-old said he was complying with officers and lying down when he was shot, and that he has mental challenges. The LAPD says he struggled with officers and was going for one of their guns when he was killed.

(Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Frances Kerry)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (107)
RFRyanIII wrote:
If the the officer who who shot the young man was locked up tomorrow would the marches stop? Would the looting stop ? Are would somthing else be brought out to keep this going. People who want peace seek peace,people who want chaos usally have it.

Aug 16, 2014 9:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dd606 wrote:
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Brown’s family, said in a statement issued on Friday that the family was “beyond outraged” at the police attempts to “assassinate the character of their son.”

Wanting to hang a cop with no trial or jury is OK, but… showing a video of a guy lifting a person up by the collar who’s half his size, is “character assassination”.

Aug 16, 2014 9:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Vahlsing wrote:
Ferguson and all the other State and Local police should not have surplus military uniforms, gear, vehicles and weapons of WAR. We have the National Guard for any major event. The police should not be play acting war soldier fantasies. They also should not be hiding their identity from the public any way, shape or form. Retrieve all those violent unsafe military equipment and send that military war gear to the Ukraine. Better yet, rent or sell that entire military surplus to the Ukrainians to help cover the initial cost that the taxpayer originally paid out.

We have too many uneducated corrupt violent psychopaths working in police departments across the U.S. They conduct profiling, racial bigotry, cultural bigotry, fashion bigotry, sexual bigotry, religious bigotry, political affiliation bigotry, socioeconomic status bigotry, etc. …and many use their job for criminal activity.

Our president did good …
… To get the Mike Brown investigation underway by our FBI and our U.S. Department of Justice.

Before cops are hired their personalities should be tested for:
• Psychopath tendencies.
• Violent authoritative responsiveness.
• Anxious eager behavior.
• Drugs and alcohol abuse (and any other abuses); and should be drug tested often.
• Manners – socially acceptable and respectful etiquette.

All police should also have a “real” four year college degree (too many police have no common sense or rational; and not intelligent enough to deal with the public). The police have to understand that their job falls under “hospitality” when dealing with the public.

All police should have excellent marksmanship shooting at a bull’s-eye target (police should not be allow to have machine guns that spray bullets aimlessly). Just because the bad guys have machine guns that spray bullets without direction; doesn’t give the police an excuse to use the same. Police should not use their gun for offense intent.

All police should have the latest video and audio equipment on their person and in their vehicles (to record any and all events) so there are no discrepancies, wrong doing and cover-ups.

Police should not have a mentality of a judge, jury and executioner. The people of the United States shouldn’t be paying for all this incompetent ineffectual security.

Anyone that kills another human being should be arrested, jailed and go through the normal legal process that is required. Just because you are a government employee (police) doesn’t afford you amnesty from the legal accountability. The police officer that murdered Mike Brown should be sitting in jail (Federal jail) during the investigation. Also the amount of bullets that were shot should have been determined the same day of the incident. If you have six bullets in the gun firing cylinder and then you open the cylinder after the shooting; you would have your answer without doubt about how many shots were fired that day; unless Darren Wilson reloaded the gun firing cylinder to continue to shoot.

Midnight until 5 a.m. curfew? … Businesses like McDonalds and Wal-Mart Supercenters are open 24 hours. Is the governor of Missouri going to subsidize all those businesses that lost money during the curfew that are open 24 hours? Doesn’t this remind you of the SUNDOWN TOWN law?

Do not violate the protestors civil rights of Freedom of Speech – Patrolman Ron Johnson continues to tell the protesters … “allowed” to speak … “allowed” to be heard. This is the comi-mentality of government employees; and the taxpayer is paying for all this. Let’s remind ourselves that We the People do not need a government employee’s permission to express ourselves.

Look Beyond the Stars for Spiritual Guidance.

Aug 16, 2014 9:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.