Witness to Michael Brown Shooting Speaks; Police Don’t Want to Hear It

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Protesters in Ferguson. Photo: Sid Hastings/AP/Corbis

Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. As of Tuesday morning, the friend he was walking with at the time has yet to be interviewed by law enforcement. The story he’s told, in an exclusive report by MSNBC, does not match the still-vague official version of events St. Louis County police have shared so far, in which the 18-year-old Brown tried to get into the cop car and reached for the officer’s weapon.

“I saw the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” said Dorian Johnson, 22, the closest eyewitness to the shooting. “Then I saw the fire come out of the barrel.”

Brown was killed in broad daylight, just after 2 p.m. Johnson was there, having caught up with his friend by chance as he walked around his neighborhood. Here’s what happened next, according to Johnson and MSNBC:

The officer demanded that the two “get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk.”

After telling the officer that they were almost at their destination, Johnson’s house, the two continued walking. But as they did, Johnson says the officer slammed his brakes and threw his truck in reverse, nearly hitting them.

Now, in line with the officer’s driver’s side door, they could see the officer’s face. They heard him say something to the effect of, “what’d you say?” At the same time, Johnson says the officer attempted to thrust his door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. Johnson says the officer, with his left hand, grabbed Brown by the neck.

In Johnson’s telling, “Mike was trying to get away from being choked … He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’” He did, but Brown, hit at least once already, managed to run away, Johnson said, until the officer shot again. And then again. As St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar put it at a press conference on Sunday, Brown was shot “more than just a couple of times, but not much more.” The officer in question has not yet been named.

Johnson’s attorney, Freeman Bosley, the former mayor of St. Louis, told MSNBC, “They didn’t even want to talk to him. They don’t want the facts. What they want is to justify what happened … what they are trying to do now is justify what happened instead of trying to point out the wrong.”

The FBI is also investigating, and the Justice Department is keeping an eye on the situation, which now includes violent protests and additional reports of police brutality. “I understand that the public has a right to be skeptical, and I appreciate that, and I would expect that the public be skeptical oftentimes of government or some forms of it,” said Belmar, the police chief. “But I would also ask the public to be reasonable because it takes a long time to make sure we do this investigation the right way.” We’ll see about that.