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Ferguson: A crash course




Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Dr. Baden reports that he found no gunpowder residue on Brown’s skin but did not include that Dr. Baden had conducted the autopsy after the body had been embalmed and cleaned. A previous version of this article stated that Shawn Parcells is a forensic pathologist when Parcells does not have the proper credentials for this identification. The Collegian regrets these errors.  

Ferguson, Missouri has been in the headlines, with protests and riots seen on television, and specific events and actions have stirred up speculations on civil rights violations. All of this surrounds the killing of 18-year-old, unarmed Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.

Officer Wilson was in a patrol car as a recent reported robbery at a local convenience store came over the police dispatch radio. Wilson saw two black teens walking in the street. He asked them to stop and a fatality occurred. Wilson stopped Brown at 12:01 p.m. and at 12:04 p.m. a second officer reported to the scene to see Brown deceased.

Although this issue has been in the news and in the minds of many for the past four months, many Americans are not aware or fully educated on the events surrounding Ferguson.

Wilson’s account and what witnesses say

In his testimony, Darren Wilson that he saw two black teens walking in the center of the street, disrupting the flow of traffic. After the teens caught his attention, Wilson noticed Brown carrying cigarillos, potentially connecting him with a recent robbery at a local convenience store.

Wilson stated that he stopped Brown and ordered him to get back, but Brown came to his car and shut Wilson’s door. Wilson said that Brown came into the vehicle through the window, and Wilson turned away to protect himself. He said that Brown hit him twice and that he pulled out his gun in fear that the struggle within the car would escalate. Wilson said Brown then tried to reach for the gun.

Wilson said that when Brown made an effort to grab for the gun, he feared for his life.

According the Wilson’s testimony, the gun went off through the door panel of his patrol car. As the gun went off, Brown stepped away but came forward again with his hands up. Wilson said he fired two more shots from within the car before Brown ran down the street.

Wilson said that he chased Brown down the street, ordering him to get on the ground, but Brown turned around and charged toward him.


Wilson claims he shot Brown from eight to 10 feet at least once in an act of self-defense.

There were seven or eight witnesses whose accounts of the shooting support Wilson’s claims.

Other witnesses had different testimonies.

Dorian Johnson was walking with Brown when the shooting occurred. Johnson says that a struggle between Brown and Wilson took place in the car and that Wilson fired a shot through the patrol car window.

Johnson stated that Brown retreated down the street and Wilson shot Brown from behind. Johnson said Brown turned around with his hands up in surrender as Wilson fired several more shots.

Witness Tiffany Mitchell had a similar account that supported Johnson’s explanation.

The grand jury heard from 60 witnesses.

What the autopsies say

Autopsies were conducted by an independent examiner requested by the Brown family, an official county medical examiner and a federal medical examiner.

Dr. Michael Baden, the Brown family’s private medical examiner, determined that Brown had been shot at least six times and had two possible re-entry wounds. Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm.

Shawn Parcells, who had been working with Dr. Baden and has been a part of a recent scandal concerning his credentials, determined that the wounds in Brown’s arm suggest that he was shot with his hands in the air or from behind.

Dr. Baden reports that he found no gunpowder residue on Brown’s skin, however, he conducted his autopsy after the body had been clean and embalmed.

The official county report says something else.

The official county examination found gunpowder residue on Brown’s thumb, consistent with Wilson’s account of a struggle within his patrol car for the gun. It could also be a result of being shot from close range.


Protests commenced outside Ferguson Police Department, sparked by the killing of Michael Brown.

Protests continued throughout the week of Aug. 10. Police responded to arson, looting and gunfire with arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, smoke based deterrents, Long Range Acoustic Devices, armored vehicles, and SWAT units. Eventually the National Guard was brought in upon request of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Two journalists were arrested Aug. 13.

President Obama spoke out on the events in Ferguson, advocating for “peace and calm” in Ferguson, addressing violence against police and protesters and reminding Americans of their First Amendment rights granted in the Constitution Aug. 14.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism and looting”, said Obama.

President Obama continued, to address the militarized policing seen in the Ferguson protests.

“There is also no excuse for for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights”, Obama said, regarding civil rights violations committed by police.

Obama proceeded to address the arrests and threats to journalists by the police.

“In the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are trying to do their jobs and reporting to the American people what they see on the ground.”

On Aug. 15, police named Officer Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed Brown. The following day, Gov. Nixon declared a state of emergency and mandated a curfew as protests erupted again.

Protests and demonstrations continued in Ferguson and the United States throughout the past four months.

Despite requests from the Brown family for peace in Ferguson, protests, looting and arson erupted again after the grand jury decision was announced, choosing to not indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown Nov. 24.

Grand jury decision and resignation of Wilson

The grand jury heard evidence on the State of Missouri v. Darren Wilson case in order to determine whether Wilson would be charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter since Aug. 20.

The grand jury was made up of six white men, three white women, one black man and two black women.

The grand jury ultimately decided not to indict Wilson with the killing of Michael Brown Nov. 24.

Wilson’s attorney announced Wilson’s resignation Nov. 29.

“It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal”, says Wilson.

There is a continuing investigation being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department for civil rights violations.

Collegian Interactive News Team member Kathleen Keaveny can be reached at or on Twitter @katkeaveny.

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