Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown fought for control of the officer’s gun, and Wilson fatally shot the unarmed teenager after he moved toward the officer as they faced off in the street, according to interviews, news accounts and the full report of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown’s body.
Because Wilson is white and Brown was black, the case has ignited intense debate over how police interact with African American men. But more than a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses have provided testimony to a St. Louis County grand jury that largely supports Wilson’s account of events of Aug. 9, according to several people familiar with the investigation who spoke with The Washington Post.
Some of the physical evidence–including blood spatter analysis, shell casings and ballistics tests–also supports Wilson’s account of the shooting, The Post’s sources said, which cast Brown as an aggressor who threatened the officer’s life. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are prohibited from publicly discussing the case.
The grand jury is expected to complete its deliberations next month over whether Wilson broke the law in confronting Brown, and the pending decision appears to be prompting the unofficial release of information about the case and what the jurors have been told.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch late Tuesday night published Brown’s official county autopsy report, an analysis of which also suggests the 18-year-old may not have had his hands raised when he was fatally shot, as has been the contention of protesters who have demanded Wilson’s arrest.
Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none of them have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Washington Post’s sources said.
The St. Louis County Police Department and the FBI are investigating the shooting, and evidence gathered by both agencies is being presented to the grand jury, which started meeting in mid-August and is expected to conclude its work early next month.
Jurors have also been provided with the St. Louis County autopsy report, including toxicology test results for Brown that show he had levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. The Post’s sources said the levels in Brown’s body may have been high enough to trigger hallucinations.
Tim Fitch, a former St. Louis County Police Chief, said there are benefits to leaking crucial information to the public ahead of a grand jury announcement.
“I think it’s good to get some accurate information out there. That way on game day, it’s not a surprise to people,” said Fitch, who retired last year from the county police department, which is now conducting the investigation into Wilson.
In interviews with The Washington Post, sources said blood spatter evidence shows that Brown was heading toward the officer during their face-off, but analysis of the evidence did not reveal how fast Brown was moving.