Christine Byers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 22, 2014
The official autopsy on Michael Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the findings by two experts not involved directly in the case.
The accompanying toxicology report shows he had been using marijuana.
Those documents, prepared by the St. Louis County medical examiner and obtained by the Post-Dispatch, provide the most detailed description to date of the wounds Brown sustained in a confrontation Aug. 9 with Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.
The St. Louis medical examiner, Dr. Michael Graham, who is not part of the official investigation, reviewed the autopsy report for the newspaper. He said Tuesday that it “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.”
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.”
The report on a supplemental microscopic exam of tissue from the thumb wound showed foreign matter “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm.”
Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said the autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.” She added, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”
Sources told the Post-Dispatch that Brown’s blood had been found on Wilson’s gun.
Melinek also said the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.
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.
That post mortem, conducted the morning after Brown’s death, comports in most ways with the findings of a private autopsy arranged by Brown’s family and made public Aug. 18.
The toxicology test, performed by a St. Louis University laboratory, revealed tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short, in Brown’s blood and urine.